MINNEAPOLIS -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar has a long to-do list as she heads back to Washington for another six years on Capitol Hill. Among the items she mentioned during her victory speech Tuesday was campaign finance reform.
"Why would we let we let one billionaire write a $10 million check and change the course of an election!?? That is not Democracy!" Klobuchar told supporters at the DFL election night gathering in St. Paul.
The line drew a huge burst of applause from the faithful Democrats and other Klobuchar backers who've tired of the onslaught of pervasive negative campaign advertising, much of it financed by SuperPACs and other political committees and nonprofits.
Candidates must stand behind the ads paid for by their committees, which is why they're required by law to be seen and heard even in their ads attacking their opponents. But they have no control of the outside organizations that overwhelmed TV viewers with negative ads this year.
But, by some estimates, independent expenditure groups spent more than $1 billion dollars in the 2012 election cycle on political advertising that was not endorsed by any candidates. And some of those ads were finance by groups that aren't required to name their donors.
"I have never heard so many people say they were sick and tired of these negative ads," Klobuchar told KARE on Thursday.
"It really is damaging to a democracy and an election system, when all you have is these outside elections expenditures not even owned by the candidates themselves."
According to the Los Angeles Times analysis of partial campaign financial disclosure reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission, SuperPACs spent $288 million on ads attacking President Obama, and $90 million on ads attacking Mitt Romney during 2012.
One proposed reform is the Disclose Act, which would require all political committees and other entities engaging in election advertising to name all of their donors.
"That's how we do it in regular campaigns," Klobuchar explained. "You have to report anyone that gives over $200, at least their name has to be on a list."
It wouldn't necessarily slow the flow of money. It would would make it easier to trace who's paying the bills for groups that are prone to overwhelm voters with TV ads and in direct mail literature pieces.
There's a limit to what individuals can donate directly to candidates and political parties, but there's no cap for how much they can give to legislative caucuses and independent expenditure groups such as SuperPACs.
"You're not condemning them in anywhere. They're just names on a list," Klobuchar said.
"And that's what we need to do for these billionaires who are writing these big checks. Right now, with certain categories of expenditures, they are exempt."
The other reform idea that appeals to Klobuchar is an amendment to the Constitution that would undo the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United ruling.
That's the 2010 case which led to the High Court deeming that corporations and trade unions are equivalent to people when it comes to freedom of speech. That ruling opened the door for corporations and unions making unlimited donations to SuperPACs and other independent expenditure entities.
It's a difficult proposition because amending the US Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress. And then it must be ratified by the state legislatures in three fourths of the states.
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