The two Senate leaders, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell made a rare joint appearance Tuesday, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on a proposed constitutional amendment to reimpose spending limits by outside groups in political campaigns. They were, of course, on opposite sides of the debate over whether or not it's okay for the Koch brothers to buy themselves a government.
Reid argued [pdf] that "the flood of dark money into our nation’s political system poses the greatest threat to our democracy that I have witnessed during my time in public service." The system the Supreme Court has left the nation with is one in which "one side’s billionaires are pitted against the other side’s billionaires."
So we sit here today faced with a simple choice: We can keep the status quo and argue all day about whose billionaires are right—or, we can work together to change the system, to get this shady money out of our democracy and restore the basic principle of one American, one vote.He then pointed out that Sen. Mitch McConnell had his own constitutional amendment, back in 1987, to regulate unlimited campaign contributions. He quoted McConnell, who said in 1987: "We Republicans have put together a responsible and Constitutional campaign reform agenda. It would restrict the power of special interest PACS, stop the flow of all soft money, keep wealthy individuals from buying public office."
McConnell's tune has changed, not surprisingly, brushing away his former principles and standing behind the straw man of free speech, arguing that this constitutional amendment was nothing more than "stir[ring] up one party’s political base so they’ll show up in November," in an effort to "empower incumbent politicians in Congress and in the states to write the rules on who gets to speak and who doesn’t."
But that didn't blow out the hyperbole meter in the committee. No, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Koch Bros) managed that by fairly shrieking "If this amendment passes, Congress can say, you the citizens are no longer citizens, you're subjects. Because we've repealed the First Amendment and taken away your ability to speak." Also, too, Congress would then start banning books and movies. Because. Tyranny.
Amending the constitution to control dark money is going to be an uphill slog, but it's a fight that's worth it. The good news is that all the Koch's money seems not to be moving the needle much this cycle. But the bad news is the huge amounts of money being poured into the system discourages participation by many who don't have huge amounts of money, and prevents many qualified would-be candidates from stepping up. Our political system is absolutely broken, in large part thanks to the Supreme Court. It's good that the Senate, well, one side anyway, is at least talking about how to fix it.