Election reform has been a major theme of the new Democratic majority in Congress and Kaptur has spoken out about the influence of money in politics.
“Out-of-control campaign spending in U.S. elections has brought troubling consequences on the state of governance in the U.S. and seriously impacted the confidence of voters in the integrity of our elections,” Kaptur said.
“If we are to restore the American people’s faith in our democratic process, then we must take meaningful steps to reform our campaign finance system. I urge my colleagues to stand with the people, not major corporations or wealthy donors, and support this common-sense legislation,” she said.
Here are Kaptur’s three bills:
• House Joint Resolution 39 is a proposed constitutional amendment which would nullify the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling and give the federal government and the states the power to limit campaign contributions and expenditures, according to a summary from Kaptur’s office. It says that First Amendment protections don’t apply to spending by corporations to affect political elections.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the 2010 Citizens United case that the government can’t limit political independent expenditures by corporations (including profits and nonprofits), labor unions and groups.
If Kaptur managed to get her measure through the House and Republican-controlled Senate, the proposed constitutional amendment would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states, spokesman Griffin Anderson told the Register.
• House Concurrent Resolution 11 expresses the sense of Congress that the Supreme Court misinterpreted the First Amendment in its Buckley v. Valeo ruling that equated campaign spending with free speech.
“Buckley v. Valeo failed to recognize the corrosive effect unlimited campaign spending has on our electoral process and in order to secure free speech as a right of the people rather than corporations this misinterpretation must be reversed,” said the news release from Kaptur’s office.
The 1976 Supreme Court ruling held that limits in campaign spending are unconstitutional. The lead petitioner, James Buckley, is an American lawyer, judge and politician and the brother of the late William F. Buckley.
• H.R. 896, the Fairness in Political Advertising Act, would require each TV station to make two free hours of advertising time available in even-numbered years to “qualified” political candidates running for national or statewide office.
The idea is to make elections fairer for candidates running against opponents backed by wealthy special interests, Kaptur’s office says.
“Qualified” means that a candidate must belong to a political party that won more than 2 percent of the votes in the most recent statewide or national election, Anderson said.
That would appear to give a chance to Green and Libertarian candidates, although it wouldn’t be guaranteed.
In the 2018 race for governor, the Green candidate, Constance Gadell-Newton, won 1.12 percent of the vote, while the Libertarian, Travis Irvine, won 1.81 percent (versus 50.39 percent for Gov. Mike DeWine and 46.68 percent for Democrat Richard Cordray).
In the 2016 presidential election, however, Libertarian Gary Johnson got 3.1 percent while Green candidate Jill Stein managed only 0.84 percent in Ohio. (Donald Trump won with 51.69 percent, while Hillary Clinton got 43.56 percent).
If the Fairness in Political Advertising Act became law, it likely would help Kaptur’s opponents, who tend to have little money, as the Republican Party tends to focus attention and money on candidates who have a good chance of winning.
During the 2018 election, Kaptur raised $772,003 for her re-election campaign, according to figures at OpenSecrets.org, while the Republican in the race, Steve Kraus of Sandusky, raised $41,064.
Kaptur is interested in being fair to everyone running for office, Anderson said.
“This is something that’s in the best interest of the whole country,” he said.