Tester vows to keep fighting despite election reform defeat

Senator: ‘Getting big money out of our elections will improve how we govern’

(U.S. SENATE) – Frustrated by gridlock in Washington, Senator Jon Tester this week seized on a potential solution, only to see a partisan politics once again rear its ugly head.

Tester’s Constitutional Amendment to limit outside spending in elections failed to receive enough votes to move forward in the Senate today. Despite having the support of a majority of the Senate, the measure fell victim to a filibuster. The Amendment would have clarified that the federal government has the ability to limit the raising and spending of money in federal elections and that states have the ability to limit money in state elections.

“We must put regular people and their ideas back in charge of our elections,” Tester implored his colleagues before the vote. “Big money interests and defenders of Citizens United are distorting the First Amendment for their own gain. Getting big money out of our elections will improve how we elect leaders and govern for all Americans.”

Citizens United was a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows wealthy groups and individuals to spend unlimited money to influence elections. Paired with another Supreme Court ruling this year, McCutcheon v. FEC, it has opened the doors to undisclosed election spending, which Tester says “lets the elite drown out the voices of everyone else.”

“It is putting up a wall between regular folks and elected leaders, who spend more and more hours on the phone with donors, or bowing to those who might finance an outside ad campaign on their behalf,” Tester said. “But we are all Americans. And we all deserve a fair and honest say in how we elect our leaders.”

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.

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.

“It’s the kind of money that can buy you lots of ads come election season. And it can give you a platform to drown out all opposing voices,” Tester said on the Senate floor. “I guarantee you that our Founding Fathers wouldn’t want to see the Constitution used to justify our current campaign finance system.”

Tester’s full floor speech is available online HERE. Today’s vote ends debate on the Constitutional Amendment (S.J. Res. 19), which was co-sponsored by Senator Tom Udall.

More information about the amendment is available online HERE and a list of supporting organizations is available online HERE.

Tester is also the sponsor of another Constitutional Amendment clarifying that corporations are not people.