Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party candidate who proclaimed that “bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view” shortly after defeating longtime incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), does not think he should be elected to the U.S. Senate. Indeed, he believes that it should be unconstitutional for anyone to run for the Senate. At a campaign event last February, the Tea Party candidate came out against the Seventeenth Amendment, which ensures that senators will be chosen by elections and not by state legislatures:
You know the issue of the 17th amendment is so troubling to me, our founding fathers, again those geniuses, made the point that the House of Representatives was there to represent the people. The Senate was there to represent the states. In other words the government of the states. . . . You know I think most senators if they had to come back every two years and by the way that would solve another problem. It would solve the idea that Senators move out of their state and never return. But it would cause those senators to have much greater contact with their states. You know just think of this. In today’s you see millions and millions of dollars spent on Senate campaigns. Two years ago, in 2010, Sharon Angle out in Nevada spent 31 million dollars, just herself. How much money would be spent in federal senate races if the state legislators were electing those people. You just took the money out of politics. Is that a bad thing?
Mourdock is certainly right that eliminating U.S. Senate elections would end the practice of corporations and wealthy individuals throwing millions of dollars to change the result of those elections. Indeed, under Mourdock’s logic there’s no reason to stop there. If we simply named someone the hereditary monarch of the United States — King Mitt I — then no one would ever spend money to influence an American election again!
Mourdock is dead wrong, however, to suggest that ending Senate elections would eliminate corruption. Rather, one of the primary forces driving the Seventeenth Amendment’s ratification was the fact that the old system led to a kind of Citizens United on steroids:
[T]he system led to rampant and blatant corruption, letting corporations and other moneyed interests effectively buy U.S. Senators, and tied state legislatures up in numerous, lengthy deadlocks over whom to send to Washington, leaving those bodies with far less time to devote to the job of enacting the laws their states needed for the welfare of the people.
Sadly, Mourdock is not the first major Republican to say that the American people should not be allowed to elect their own senators. Texas Gov. Rick Perry believes this, as does Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Justice Antonin Scalia.