Following a controversial opinion by the supreme court on campaign finance laws in 2010, Colorado has a constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot that would direct the congressional delegation to propose and support campaign finance limits.
Amendment 65 attempts to change campaign finance by instructing elected officials to introduce and pass a federal constitutional amendment that would allow for campaign finance limits.
“The ultimate goal is to get big money out of our elections,” said Daniel Katz, director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG).
Although no formal opposition has been made to the amendment according to the Colorado Secretary of State website, there has been criticism from those who believe the amendment will actually limit free speech.
“Amendment 65 is a blank check for government censorship of political speech and goes vastly beyond what would be something more precise to reverse the Citizens United case,” said David Kopel research director of the Independence Institute.
The amendment addresses Citizens United v. The Federal Election Committee, a controversial supreme court decision that found money to count as free speech and corporations as people who have a right to practice free speech.
The Citizens United ruling has changed the political environment. With the inclusion of super PACs, corporations and various individuals able to make substantial contributions to campaigns, this year’s election is on track to triple the amount of money spent during the 2008 election, according to Katz.
Steve Justino, the co-chair of Move to Amend, a group looking to amend the federal constitution to overturn the Citizens United ruling, said the case was a very bad tipping point for America.
“I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that we are not in a functional democracy,” Justino said.
Those that support Amendment 65 see it as mitigating the impact of money on the democratic process.
“We think it is a very powerful message coming from Colorado, given we are a swing state in this election,” Katz said.
But to some, like Kopel, the amendment is very dangerous because of how broadly it can be interpreted.
“Sixty five is an order to all of Colorado’s officials to enact laws that limit campaign speech, but it doesn’t provide any specifics about what kinds of laws,” Kopel said. “So it is in essence giving them an order to vote for any law restricting political speech during elections.”
For the group Move to Amend, the broad text of the amendment creates confusion and weakens the stance against Citizens United. Yet, even though they do not stand in proposition of the amendment, they still want people to vote in favor of 65 because it will further the debate on campaign finance.
“Move to Amend thinks that Colorado voters should vote for it to get that discussion going, but when it comes to the amendment our position is nonnegotiable,” Justino said.
Collegian Writer Skyler Leonard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.