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Oregon Urges Congress to Limit Campaign Spending by UnionsShelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog
Oregon is one of only a few states that has no limits on campaign contributions.
(PORTLAND, OR) - In its original form, proposed Oregon legislation urged Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution so that governments can cap political spending by corporations.
That wasn’t fair.
So Republican members of the Oregon House Rules Committee sought an amendment to include labor unions and other associations. That change prompted the House memorial to pass the committee unanimously and it now awaits a House vote.
“The reason it got a bipartisan vote was because it got a bipartisan amendment,” state Rep. and House Rules Committee member Bill Kennemer said.
He noted that people often scoff at big money spent by corporations, but forget about contributions from labor unions.
Kennemer said unions donate more often to the left side of the political aisle, whereas corporations more typically give to Republicans.
Kennemer, an Oregon City Republican and state Rep. Wally Hicks, R-Grants Pass, both think there’s too much money in politics.
“We’re starting to spend enormous sums of money on campaigns,” Kennemer said. “You have to push it to the extreme. I think that ends up resulting in campaigning that’s often dishonest or vicious.”
Hicks co-authored the amendment with state Rep. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland.
“In my opinion the amount of money in politics is obscene on both sides,” Hicks said, adding that a lot of voters have lost faith in the system. “There’s definitely a perception that votes are being diminished.”
But proponents of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United case, which determined that political spending is free speech, say amending the constitution could have dangerous consequences. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is opposed to the proposed memorial and says there are other ways, such as public financing, to reform campaign finance.
John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the CATO Institute, a Washington, D.C. based free-market public policy think tank, in his policy analysis on proposed amendments to overturn Citizens United, said proposed amendments hand more power to the government and could potentially harm free speech rights.
“Speaking out requires spending money, and restricting or prohibiting such spending will restrain or prohibit the related speech,” he said.
Hicks and Kennemer agree too much money in politics can stifle the free speech of those who don’t have the money to spend.
“Whether money is speech or not is not the clearest question ever posed to the republic,” Hicks added.
The U.S. Supreme Court vote was 5-4 in the Citizens United case.
Hicks said the memorial, House Joint Memorial 6, has a good chance of passing in the full House but with the session nearing an end, it’s unclear if the Senate will take it up.
Contact Shelby Sebens at Shelby@NorthwestWatchdog.org
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