Monday, June 3, 2013

Reply from Senator Harkin About Campaign Finance Reform

May 31, 2013

Mr. Stephen Greenleaf
345 Magowan Ave
Iowa City, IA  52246-3515
Dear Stephen:
Thank you for contacting me regarding campaign finance reform. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.
As the cost of running for office continues to rise, the integrity of the campaign process continues to wane. This is why I have continually fought for a major overhaul of campaign financing. I believe that placing strict limits on individual, corporate, and PAC contributions would make races fair and more competitive. And, it is also why I co-sponsored the Fair Elections Now Act, which would create a voluntary, publicly financed system to cover Congressional campaigns.
In addition, I strongly disagree with the Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) that the government cannot limit independent corporate spending on elections. The Court's holding was based on two faulty premises, that corporations, perhaps even including corporations controlled by foreign nationals, have the same rights as individual citizens under the First Amendment, and that the ability to spend money is the same as freedom of speech. While I have always been a strong advocate of protecting the First Amendment, I do not consider granting corporations unlimited financial influence on elections to be an issue of free speech. If money is considered speech, wealthy Americans suddenly have a stronger voice than anyone else.
The Court's decision is deeply harmful to our democracy. It limits our ability to restrict the influence of special interests and to restrain the ability of corporations to use their vast resources to distort our campaign process.  This decision, which overturned well-established precedent and a law that has served our country well for over 60 years, is also a blatant exercise of judicial activism.
Because I feel so strongly that the court profoundly erred in Citizens United, in the last Congress I cosponsored a constitutional amendment which would overturn the Citizens United decision and give Congress the power to pass meaningful campaign finance reform and limit corporate influence on elections. This constitutional amendment has yet to be re-introduced in the current Congress.  However, if it is re-introduced I expect that I will sponsor it once again. 
While the Supreme Court has prevented Congress from eliminating corporate influence on our elections, at the very least voters should know who is trying to influence our democracy.  That is why I also a cosponsored the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, which would limit the harm of the Court's decision, improve the health of our democracy, and restore integrity to our electoral process. So the public will know who is funding political advertisements, the bill will hold corporations accountable by requiring them to publicly disclose the money they spend on influencing elections.  Unfortunately, when this important bill was considered in the Senate last Congress, a minority of Senators blocked the legislation from coming to a final vote.  Similar legislation has not yet been introduced this Congress, but I am hopeful that the Senate will address this important matter in the near future.
We need to have a campaign finance structure which limits the influence of the special interests, restores integrity to the democratic process, and buttresses America's confidence in our democracy. As I have in the past, I will continue to fight for an election system to accomplish all of these things.
Again, thank you for sharing your views with me. Please do not hesitate to let me know how you feel on any issue that concerns you.


Tom Harkin
United States Senator

SNG: Pretty good. I still, however, would like him & others to take the Rootstrikers pledge that Lawrence Lessig is pressing.

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