A proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 Citizens United ruling and give lawmakers greater ability to prevent large donors from corrupting government failed in the United States Senate on Thursday on a party-line vote. Among the 42 Republicans voting no was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who in the past had been a campaign finance reform advocate.
Citizens United decision found, for the first time, that the First Amendment’s free speech protections guaranteed corporations and unions the right to spend unlimited sums of money on political advertisements. McCain denounced the ruling as the Supreme Court’s “worst decision ever.”
In 2012, McCain promised that “there will be huge scandals… because there’s too much money washing around, too much of it… we don’t know who, who contributed it, and there is too much corruption associated with that kind of money.” He blasted the Supreme Court’s view that corporations are people and denounced the Roberts Court for demonstrating “a combination of arrogance, naivete, and stupidity, the likes of which I have never seen.”
The amendment, proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) would have given Congress and the states the authority to “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections,” as long as doing to did not abridge the freedom of the press, and would have allowed them to “distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.” Like all constitutional amendments, it would have required a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and ratification by three-fourths of the states’ legislatures.
But McCain cast the deciding vote against the DISCLOSE Act in 2010, which would have required disclosure of the major funders of political ads. He has refused to back similar legislation to require transparency for outside political spending in every Congress since.
Brian Rogers, communications director for Sen. McCain, told ThinkProgress: “Senator McCain is proud of his long record of fighting special interests in both parties to reform our broken campaign finance system, and doesn’t need to vote for a partisan, hypocritical, election-year stunt in order to prove it. At a time when the Senate has not passed a single appropriations bill, the Defense Authorization Act has not been brought to the floor, and during turbulent times for America’s national security, it is unfortunate that Majority Leader Reid has decided to spend the Senate’s short time in session on a bill everyone knows cannot pass the House and was introduced for purely political purposes.”