November 4, 2011 Dylan Ratigan

Sen. Tom Udall: A Constitutional Amendment To Fix Citizens United

Over the next few weeks, you’ll certainly hear a lot of buzz and debate about Sen. Tom Udall’s proposed legislation that would effectively overturn Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that gave corporations the ability to spend money on campaign advertising anonymously.

Here are the basics: The amendment, “A Constitutional Amendment to Reform Campaign Finance”  was proposed by Sen. Udall and six other Democratic Senators.  It would effectively give Congress the ability to limit money in federal campaigns, and give the states the ability to regulate spending on elections on their turf.  Most importantly, the amendment would effectively give Congress the ability to regulate and limit money from Super PACs.

In a press release posted by Sen. Udall, Sen. Dick Durbin described the amendment this way: that it would “enable Congress to enact common sense reforms that cannot be overturned by the Supreme Court.” He goes on to say that the Court’s Citizens United decision “jeopardize core principles of our democracy and threaten to give corporations and special interests an outsized influence on our elections.”

Sen. Udall joined Dylan to discuss it – here’s the key part of their conversation, with the transcript below:

DYLAN: The amendment that you propose puts Congress in charge of setting rules and regulations, if i understand it correctly, for how much money can be spent. You’re probably familiar with the amendment that Jimmy Williams has put forward, which uses what I call NCAA rules, which says not only does the Congress not get to decide that private money cannot infect private political offices, why did you stop by putting the Congress in charge? How do you expect America to trust the Congress when Congress is the one that’s depending upon the very money they’re now theoretically regulating?

SEN. UDALL: Well, we’re not only talking about Congress, we’re talking about state legislatures. Because many of the reform efforts across the country have been at the state level, they’ve been at the city level.  Those pieces of legislation have been dragged into Federal Court and declared unconstitutional under these series of cases starting back in the 1970s.  So, I think the root cause here is that the courts have taken this over. We have to take it back. We’ve done reasonable things in the past, but many of them have been declared unconstitutional by the courts.  That appears to be a continuing trend here. I know there isn’t trust out there, but, boy, the way the court’s going, they’ve opened this up to the special interests. There’s no transparency, there’s a lot of secret money, these super PAC’s are running ads, and nobody knows who is behind them. And that’s a big problem.

Dylan then asked Sen. Udall “why stop short of saying money is not speech?”

SEN. UDALL: You can phrase it a bunch of different ways. You can also say that money is property. And I thought the most straightforward way and the way that we had a shot in terms of bipartisanship would be to pick an amendment, I’ve sponsored this in the last congress with Chris Dodd. In the past, it’s had Senate Republicans on this amendment to try to find something that had bipartisan support, so i could appeal to both Republicans and Democrats to move forward with this.

Does Sen. Udall’s proposed amendment go far enough in limiting campaign contributions?  With voters giving Congress a 9% approval rating, would you trust Congress to regulate themselves when it comes to campaign finance rules? 

Sound off in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.  For those of you with a lot to say, send an to  We’ll post a summary of the more interesting responses later today.

UPDATE: Sen. Udall’s office put the proposed amendment online – take a look here:
A Constitutional Amendment to Reform Campaign Finance

Megan Robertson is a digital producer for


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