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Reformers Push to Overturn Citizens United

Campaign reformers are looking to drum up support, including financial, for their push for a Constitutional Amendment to limit "big money" contributions and essentially overturn the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. The vote is currently teed up for Sept. 8 in the Senate.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was asking for donations earlier in the week to fund MoveOn's campaign to drum up support for the amendment, for example, while MoveOn was trying to get folks to contact Senators who had not committed to the amendment to try to convince them to do so.

Citizens United is the 2010 High Court ruling that corporations and unions can directly fund electioneering ads — ones advocating the election of a specific candidate — in the run-up to federal primaries and general elections. It has helped put more money in broadcast coffers, but has been attacked by reformers for giving big corporations too much influence over elections.

The Supreme Court concluded the ban on such funding denied corporations a First Amendment right to speech via those election ads.

The amendment, S.J.Res. 19, "grants Congress and the states the power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to federal and state elections, respectively."

Even if the amendment passes, by the needed two-thirds majority, it would then have to pass in the House by the same majority and be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

The President has no role in the process, but has been known to attend the ceremony in which the documents of approval are certified by the Archivist of the United States.

The amendment was proposed by Democrats in Congress after their failure to take some of the edge off of Citizen's United with the DISCLOSE Act, which would have required disclosures in radio and TV political ads of the actual funding behind them. It would not have reversed Citizens United, but it would have required groups like "Citizens for a Bright Tomorrow" to reveal who was actually funding the group and its ads.

In the wake of that bill's failure, campaign reformers have pushed the FCC to require broadcasters and cable operators to provide more detailed disclosures as part of their sponsorship identification requirement. But the FCC earlier this week signaled it was rejecting an insufficient political ad disclosure complaint against a pair of stations by the Campaign Legal Center and others, saying it was balancing the need for stations to do due diligence about funders with First Amendment concerns.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's nomination was also held up last year by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) over fears the FCC would use sponsorship ID authority to end run the defeat of the DISCLOSE Act. Wheeler signaled that was not "a priority" and the hold on his nomination was lifted.