In that time, so-called “super PACs” have grown into huge political juggernauts, fed on a steady diet of cash since the Supreme Court threw out a decades-old ban on unlimited corporate contributions.
In the landmark 5-4 decision handed down two years ago, the court's conservative bloc found that corporations had the same right to political free speech as individuals, and so could not be stopped from spending to help their favored candidates.
In a statement on Monday announcing the proposed constitutional amendment, Schiff said the consequences of that decision have been “disastrous,” citing the deluge of money flowing to political action committees, or PACs, which, although separate from a candidate's campaign, can work on the campaign's behalf so long as no coordination between the PAC and campaign takes place.
“The growth of the super PACs is just the most recent and disastrous result of a series of Supreme Court decisions that seek to distinguish between contributions to a candidate and direct expenditures that have the same effect,” Schiff said.
The amendment, which was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, would also overturn a Supreme Court decision — Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett — that struck down an Arizona law that allowed public financing of a candidate if that candidate's opponent exceeded certain spending limits, according to Schiff's office.
By any standard, the proposed amendment has a long journey ahead if it ever hopes to become law. It would have to pass in both the House and Senate by a two-thirds majority, and then be ratified by three-fourths, or 38, of the nation's states.
“I have always been loath to amend the Constitution, but this tragic line of reasoning by the Supreme Court has so threatened the health of our democracy that I am moved to introduce today's amendment,” Schiff said.