Retired Justice John Paul Stevens testifies in favor of a campaign finance constitutional amendment


Screenshot from 2014-05-02 14:02:21I am curious to know why the “lamestream” media in Arizona decided that retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens testifying before Congress in favor of a constitutional amendment to overturn the line of campaign finance cases from Buckley v. Valeo (1976) to McCutcheon v. FEC (2014) was not “newsworthy.” Didn’t the Arizona Republic just do a couple of commentaries about the evils of “dark money” in Arizona politics?

The Los Angeles Times reported Retired Justice John Paul Stevens tells Congress ‘money is not speech’:

Unlimited campaign expenditures “impair” the democratic process, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens told senators Wednesday, urging Congress to amend the Constitution to allow “reasonable limits” on election spending.

The Republican-appointed justice, who last testified before the Senate in his 1975 confirmation hearing, stressed the importance of creating a “level playing field” in elections. Stevens offered five points for enacting an amendment to correct what he views as an “error” in campaign finance jurisprudence originating from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn limits on campaign spending in its 1976 Buckley vs. Valeo ruling.

“While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech,” Stevens said. “After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglaries — actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment.”

Stevens, who led the court’s liberal wing, cast campaign finance rules as a nonpartisan issue and said they would allow elected officials to better serve the public. While Stevens did not mention any recent cases by name, the former associate justice criticized Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, a 2010 decision preventing Congress from restricting  independent political expenditures made by corporations and unions. Stevens argued regulations should distinguish between funding from constituents and contributions from corporations or out-of-state donors.

“Elections are contests between rival candidates for public office,” he said. “Like rules that govern athletic contests or adversary litigation, those rules should create a level playing field.”

UPDATE: have more video of testimony at the hearing. Five Videos Worth Watching From The Senate Dark Money Hearing.

During the hearing, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Senate Democrats plan to hold a vote this year on a campaign finance amendment written by Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

[SJ Res 19, a constitutional amendment introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), would directly address decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon by restoring the ability of Congress and the states to regulate the raising and spending of money on elections. S.J. Res. 19 – Bill Text – 113th Congress (2013-2014)]

Wait for it . . .

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who argued in front of the Supreme Court as a lawyer, praised Stevens’ “incisive” and “friendly” questions but took the opposite position. The tea-party Texan offered a full-throated defense of using the 1st Amendment to protect political spending.

“Money is and has always been used as a critical tool of speech, whether publishing books or putting on events or broadcasting over the airwaves,” Cruz said, noting that restrictions serve only to protect incumbents.

Cruz mocked the current regulatory system in which candidates can’t coordinate with “super PACs,” the same groups that often speak on their behalf. Instead, he called for allowing “unlimited contributions” from individuals but requiring “immediate disclosure.”

Well then pass a transparency/disclosure bill, you phony. Cruz won’t do it, of course, because the billionaire mega donors do not want their names disclosed like average citizens who contribute to campaigns. There is one set of rules for elite Plutocrats, and another set of rules for everyone else.

Wednesday’s hearing was the first to focus on undisclosed “dark money” since the Supreme Court struck down aggregate spending limits to political parties and candidates in McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission.

Attendance at the hearing was sparse, with only about one-third of the committee’s senators present. Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman and counsel to Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid, said Congress will act when it feels pressure from constituents.

“I would not expect this hearing to be full of senators yet,” Potter said. “What I think needs to happen is the pressure needs to continue to build.”

Justice Stevens has a new book out, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. It is probably the better course of action to replace the “Felonious Five” on the U.S. Supreme Court with justices who will overturn the wrongly decided line of campaign finance cases.

h/t People For the American Way: Take Action Now, Sign the Petition!