H.J. Res. 31 (114th)
Introduced by Rep. J. McNerney (D-CA)
Legal Personhood: n/a
Money as Speech: B
The only source of funding to directly or indirectly support or oppose a campaign for election to public office shall be either contributions by individual citizens to the principal campaign committee controlled by the candidate or funds provided under a system of public election financing or voter education established by Congress, the State, or other jurisdiction as appropriate.
The only source of funding that may be used to directly or indirectly support or oppose a ballot measure to amend a State constitution or other initiatives or referenda shall be either contributions made by individuals who are eligible to vote on the measure or funds provided under a system of public election financing or voter education established by the State.
Congress, the States, and local jurisdictions shall establish limits on the amount of contributions individuals may make with respect to a single campaign for election to Federal, State, or local office, respectively, including limits on the amount of contributions an individual who is a candidate for such office may make with respect to the individual’s own campaign, and the States and local jurisdictions shall establish limits on the amount of contributions individuals may make with respect to a ballot measure. The total of combined contributions to the principal campaign committee of a candidate from citizens who are not eligible to vote for the candidate shall not exceed the total of combined contributions from citizens who are eligible to vote for the candidate.
Congress and the States shall have the power to carry out this article through appropriate legislation.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.
Rep. McNerney’s proposal is a whole lot of campaign finance reform. There are some good ideas here but it’s executed poorly. Limiting campaign spending and contributions to candidate committees, which can only be funded by individuals, is an interesting approach that restricts both for-profit and not-for-profit corporations and unions. But the non-partisan approach is hobbled by the lack of a definition of personhood. Failing to deal with corporate constitutional rights leaves the door open to an interpretation that includes legal fictions in the definition of “citizen.” (The Court has stated that corporations are persons for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment. Since Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment is a definition of citizenship, corporations are tantamount to citizens under current case law already.)
Including ballot measures, initiatives and referenda is broader than many amendment proposals that attempt campaign finance reform, though it still leaves some forms of issue advocacy off the table. Section 3 is a mandate that many will oppose. Most legislators prefer “may” to “must.” They want the power to legislate without being commanded to legislate. Capping outside contributions at equal the amount of contributions from voters eligible to cast ballot for a particular candidate is a really good idea. It adds a layer of paperwork to campaign management but it’s not prohibitive.
There are solid ideas in Rep. McNerney’s proposal but it still fails to fully address corporate constitutional rights and money as speech. It’s a welcome addition to the roster but it’s not enough to get the job done in itself.