Opinion

Harry Reid fast-tracks anti-Koch constitutional amendment in Senate

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Senate,Harry Reid,Campaign Finance,First Amendment,Koch brothers,Charles Hoskinson

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hates the Koch brothers so much he wants to rewrite the First Amendment to keep them out of the political process.

"There should be no million-dollar entry fee to participate in our democracy," Reid, D-Nev., said in a Senate floor speech Thursday, citing the Koch brothers repeatedly in noting that campaign contributions should not receive the same constitutional protection as speech. "Elections in the United States should be decided by voters."

He said he will move for a quick vote on a constitutional amendment giving Congress and state governments the right to regulate the raising and spending of money in political campaigns. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced his panel would hold a June 3 hearing on the proposal, sponsored by Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

What that means, in the real world, is that incumbents in Congress will have power over what their challengers need to do to reach voters. How convenient.

The only exception is a provision stating that "Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press," which -- given current attitudes at the Federal Election Commission -- most likely would only protect the institutional media and not conservative or libertarian bloggers.

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have become the all-purpose excuse for Democrats in a crucial election year to explain why their control of the Senate has produced so little for Americans. In fact, it's Reid's iron control of that chamber, which he uses to spare vulnerable Democrats from taking tough votes and prevent Republicans from offering amendments that could break Democratic solidarity, that keeps bills from being passed.

Perhaps that's why Reid is so eager to distort their role in national politics. "There is absolutely no question: The Koch brothers are in a category of their own — in both degree and kind. No one else is pumping money into shadowy campaign organizations and campaigns like they are. There isn't even a close second," Reid declared.

That would be a good talking point if true, but it's not. OpenSecrets.org tallied the top donors in federal elections between 1989 and 2014 and found a Democratic group -- ActBlue -- in the top spot with just shy of $100 million in contributions since it started in 2004. Six of the top 10 spots are held by unions which form the backbone of Democratic Party power.

Where were the Koch brothers? All the way down in 59th place.

Sorry, Harry. If you think you're going to get away with rewriting the Constitution to limit any citizen's right to participate in the political process, you'll have to find a better excuse. Try one that's actually true for a change.

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