BUFFALO, NY - Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) announced today that he has introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the 1976 Supreme Court decision in the case of Buckley v. Valeo and restore Congress’ power to regulate campaign finances.
“As the cost of running for office has spiraled out of control, the public’s confidence in our democracy has steadily decreased,” said Higgins. “To restore the public’s confidence, we must establish a campaign finance structure which limits the influence of the special interests dollars on our elections and reduces the amount of time elected officials focus on fundraising instead of their public responsibilities.”
In the Buckley decision, the Supreme Court equated money with free speech, protecting what it called “contributions” and “expenditures” associated with campaigns under the first amendment. The court’s opinion has since limited Congress’ ability to make changes to the current system of campaign financing. At the same time, the Supreme Court also held that Congress could step in wherever the influence of money posed a significant threat to the “integrity of our system of representative democracy.”
“These findings directly contradict one another,” said Higgins. “If money is equal to free speech, then money ultimately governs the outcome of elections. I can’t think of a bigger threat to our democracy than that.”
This resolution would in fact allow for better First Amendment protection in situations where a candidate’s views might be dwarfed by a self-financing opponent. In addition to restoring Congress’ power to regulate campaign finances in federal elections, the resolution also authorizes similar power to each state for election to state or local office, ballot initiatives, and referenda.
A record setting $2.7 billion dollars was spent on the mid-term 2006 elections. The average House race cost more than $1 million.
“If we are ever to have meaningful campaign finance reform in this country, this amendment is a necessary first step,” Higgins said.