Congressman Jerry McNerney

Representing the 9th District of California
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McNerney calls for Constitutional amendment to control campaign financing

Feb 11, 2015
In The News

A proposed Constitutional amendment that would significantly change the way political campaigns are financed has been introduced on Congress by Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

“I wrote this amendment because our current campaign finance system is broken, and I believe this dysfunction is a growing threat to our democracy,” says Mr. McNerney.

The amendment would allow contributions to candidates primarily from individuals who are eligible to vote in the election in which that candidate is involved. No contributions or spending by non-individuals of any kind would be allowed.

Contributions from individuals who reside outside of a district would be allowed only up to the amount donated from individuals inside that district.

Congress, states and localities must also establish limits on spending or adopt public financing rules, and each may also establish a system of public campaign financing that would eliminate fundraising altogether.

“Each election cycle the spending just seems to increase, and all this money is drowning out the voices of the voters and keeping us from doing the important work we need to do,” Mr. McNerney says.

His proposal applies to both direct contributions (money donated to a candidate or ballot initiative) and indirect contributions (other spending intended to influence the outcome of an election or ballot initiative).

The Center for Responsive Politics recently found that total federal election spending in 2012 was over $6.2 billion, more than double the $3 billion spent in the 2000 campaign. CNN also reported that, adjusted for inflation, House candidates spend over 300 times as much today getting elected as they did 20 years ago – an average of $1.6 million dollars every two years.

Since the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, much of this campaign spending now comes from undisclosed and unregulated sources. In 2012, the Center for Responsive Politics found that spending from outside entities (that is, not candidates or parties) totaled over $1 billion.

So-called “dark money” -- from groups that don’t disclose their donors – is estimated at over $300 billion, but could be more.

“This outsized emphasis on fundraising restricts the choices voters have,” says Mr. McNerney. “It means that voters have fewer opportunities to learn about the candidates’ leadership abilities, policy ideas, and plans. I believe Citizens United has diminished free speech in this country, rather than protected it.

“If we don’t change how campaigns are financed, we risk further disillusionment by voters, lower voter turnout, and elections that are decided by just a privileged few.”