Constitutional amendment fails

A proposed U.S. constitutional amendment failed in the Senate Aug. 11, and Nevada’s senators split on the issue.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, would have carved out an exception in the First Amendment in order to negate the effect of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that in campaign finance, money is speech, that corporations are persons entitled to First Amendment protection, and that aggregate limits on campaign contributions violate the first amendment. Those rulings have turned a flood of money loose.

Democratic Sen. Harry Reid supported the amendment and Republican Sen. Dean Heller voted against it.

The measure had no chance of winning approval because constitutional amendments require a supermajority, but Reid brought it up for a vote to force Republicans to cast an unpopular vote during an election campaign.

The measure is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which issued a statement after the vote:

“But history has taught us to be wary of proposals that would empower the government to monitor, regulate, and ultimately criminalize political speech. For instance, with the McCain-Feingold bill in 2002, Congress made it a criminal offense for groups like the ACLU or Sierra Club to even mention a candidate in certain communications paid for by general treasury funds in the crucial run-up period to elections and primaries. The constitutional amendment under consideration in the Senate is even broader in some ways. It would allow the federal and state governments to limit spending, including spending by private citizens, that lawmakers say could ‘influence elections.'”