Tester rallies Senate as chamber advances election reform, moves to overturn Citizens United

Senator: ‘It’s time to put people and their ideas back in charge of our elections’

(U.S. SENATE) – With Senator Jon Tester calling on Congress to back a Constitutional Amendment fixing America’s broken election system, the Senate responded by voting overwhelmingly to begin debate on the landmark measure.

“What makes America great is the belief that everyone has a say in the decisions we make. That each of us, from the richest to the poorest, has an equal stake in electing our leaders,” Tester said before today’s vote. “But the Supreme Court can’t seem to figure that out. It’s time to overturn Citizens United. It’s time to put people and their ideas back in charge of our elections.”

Tester’s Constitutional Amendment, which he is co-sponsoring with Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), gives the federal government the ability to limit the raising and spending of money in federal elections and states the ability to limit money in state elections.

The measure responds to Supreme Court rulings, such as 2010’s Citizens United, that have overturned laws that kept wealthy groups and individuals from spending unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. Another ruling, this year’s McCutcheon decision, invalidated a 40-year-old law that limits the total amount of money an individual can contribute to campaigns each cycle. About 300 Americans have taken advantage of the ruling, contributing over $11.5 million to political campaigns this year.

Tester highlighted Montana’s long history of fighting the corruptive influence of wealthy individuals and corporations in elections. In 1912, Montana voters passed an initiative limiting corporate influence – a law recently upheld by Montana’s Supreme Court, but overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In response to that decision and the Citizens United decision, Tester last year introduced his own Constitutional Amendment clarifying that corporations are not people, restoring the right of Congress to limit corporate influence in elections.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, spending by outside groups in the 2014 election cycle is three times higher than the amount spent at the same point in the last mid-term election cycle in 2010. As of the end of August, outside groups have spent $170 million on federal mid-term races.

Today’s vote allows the Senate to debate the Constitutional Amendment. More information about the amendment (S.J. Res. 19) is available online HERE and a list of supporting organizations is available online HERE.