6 Congress members Receive Failing Grades for Inaction on Amendment 65

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Only three of Colorado’s nine Congress members have taken concrete action in response to Amendment 65, a call to action by Colorado voters last November to get big money out of our elections, according to a new report by CoPIRG and Colorado Common Cause. The two organizations graded the delegation on the same day that the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on McCutcheon vs FEC, a case that could exacerbate the flood of big money in politics.

“74% of voters sent clear direction to every Colorado Congress member – pass a constitutional amendment to get big money out of our elections,” said CoPIRG Director Danny Katz. “Unfortunately nearly one year later, only three have even offered such an amendment or demonstrated their support for one of the 14 that currently exist. That’s unacceptable.”

“The time to act is now. The size of your wallet shouldn’t determine the impact of your voice in our democracy.” said Katie Fleming Dahl, Associate Director of Colorado Common Cause. “McCutcheon is about the corruption of our democracy. It’s about a relatively few wealthy people who believe they are entitled to as much influence in our democracy as their money can buy, and entitled to use that money to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans.”

In 2010, a set of US Supreme Court decisions including Citizens United and SpeechNow.org v. FEC removed the ban on election spending in federal races for corporations and struck down contribution limits to committees spending independently of candidate committees. This started a new era of spending on elections which resulted in the record shattering $7 billion election in 2012.

Of that $7 billion an extraordinary $1 billion was spent in outside spending, i.e. spending not coordinated with candidate committees. A handful of individuals and special interests contributed much of it giving them the ability to drown out the voices of everyday citizens. According to a previous CoPIRG report, in 2012, it took just 32 donors to super PACs to match the combined donations that 3.7 million Americans gave to Obama and Romney. These are contributions of $1 million or more.  In addition, numerous new “dark money” groups sprung up that do not have to disclose donors. These dark money groups paid for nearly half of all television advertising in the presidential race.

“The best way to give Colorado the tools to fight back and limit the deluge of outside money is to pass a constitutional amendment allowing for campaign spending limits,” said Katz. “That is what an overwhelming majority of voters in every single county across Colorado said when they passed Amendment 65. But so far only Senators Bennet and Udall and Representative Perlmutter have actually moved forward. It’s been a year; the time for action is now.”

The complete mid-term grades are:

Senator Bennet                  PASS
Senator Udall                     PASS
Representative Coffman    FAIL
Representative DeGette     FAIL
Representative Gardner     FAIL
Representative Lamborn    FAIL
Representative Perlmutter  PASS
Representative Polis           FAIL
Representative Tipton        FAIL

A bad decision in McCutcheon v. FEC would take us further down that path of the wealthiest 1 percent of this nation controlling our elections.  If aggregate federal contribution limits are abolished, a single donor could put as much as $3.6 million into federal campaigns in a single election cycle, buying the attention of every member of Congress as well as the President.

“The people demanded action on a constitutional amendment, and the potential McCutcheon ruling illustrates why action is needed,” concluded Dahl.  “This question before the Court is whether we make bribery legal or illegal. Do we want our elected officials solving the problems of the wealthy elite and the largest industries in the country, or should they be able to attend to the wishes and concerns of all Americans without risking political defeat at the hands of a well-resourced minority?”

“This is a mid-term report. So it is not too late for those members who received failing grades to take action before the end of the term ,” said Katz. “And for those with passing grades, more will need to be done to fulfill the mandate from voters and pass something.”

Find a full copy of the report here.