I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Heinrich co-sponsors bill similar to Udall’s recent proposal calling for a Constitutional amendment on campaign contribution reform
Last week, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall and six of his fellow Democratic colleagues proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow Congress to regulate the campaign finance system.
Today, Rep. Martin Heinrich, another longtime advocate of campaign finance reform, co-sponsored his own House version, in a bill that calls for the “power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents” in both Federal and state elections.
The legislation calls for overseeing: “the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, State office; and the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates. Congress shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.’’
Alarmed just as much by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision as Udall and his colleagues were, Heinrich and his House colleagues drafted a proposal that would repeal the Court’s ruling. “The Supreme Court made an enormous mistake when they said in their Buckley v. Valeo ruling that money and free speech are the same thing,” said Heinrich moments before presenting his bill. “Then the Citizens United decision took that to a whole new level. We’re all put at risk by decisions like that. They’re very scary.”
In order for the bill to become law, it has to pass with a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress and then be ratified by three-quarters of state legislatures. “I have yet to find somebody who thinks this is a bad idea,” said Heinrich. “Unfortunately, if you look at the other people who are behind this bill, it’s largely Democrats. Still, I think even the most ardent Tea Party activists are concerned that corporations have been given this status of being more important than individuals, and that Republicans are going to wake up to that. It’s a mistake that the Republicans don’t already see this. But I do think they’ll have to respond to the growing sentiment that’s out there.”
Heinrich also expressed concern over James Bopp Jr.’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of New Mexico’s campaign-contribution limits. “The piles of money that flowed into the state in the last election are of huge concern,” he said. “What we’re seeing with these campaigns of unlimited spending is that it’s undermining the democratic process.
“In New Mexico in particular, we have inexpensive media markets and they’re very vulnerable to this money that floods in from out of state,” he added. “This bill stems from the same logic as the bill that passed into law in New Mexico in 2010: it’s the logic of not serving corporations but serving the voters.”
Which is why Heinrich decided to co-sponsor this bill. “It’s indicative of how deep this issue is and it’s not coming from some special interest group,” he said of its origins. “It’s coming from the people. It’s an issue that has a life of its own and it should. How it does and whether or not it passes will depend on the intensity of the support that’s out there.”
While amending the Constitution is no small task, Heinrich sees the impetus behind the bill as part of a larger battle. “It really is the choice between serving Americans and serving the interests of a corporation,” he said.