Bucks county State Representative Steve Santarsiero is so troubled by the influence of money in American elections that he’s asking the state legislature to start a movement to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Satarsiero said U.S. Supreme Court decisions have effectively nullified federal campaign laws, opening the door to unlimited special interest money in elections.
He said it will take a constitutional amendment permitting Congress to limit contributions and spending to change the system, and he notes that action by two-thirds of the states can convene a convention for amending the constitution.
He wants the Pennsylvania legislature to get the movement started, and he’s introduced a resolution in Harrisburg formally petitioning Congress to act and calling on other states to follow.
“You see what the money is doing this year in the presidential primaries,” Sanarsiero said in a telephone interview. “If you want to stop that and you want to take back the political process and vest it in the people, this is the way to do it.”
Santarsiero faces an uphill fight, since Pennsylvania hasn’t yet been willing to impose contribution limits for state elections. But he thinks the idea will gain popularity, and he’ll be meeting with legislators from other states this spring.
Santarsiero said he doesn’t think it will be necessary to actually have a constitutional convention if enough states demand change. He says a broad-based popular movement would convince Congress to enact a campaign finance amendment and submit it to the states for ratification.
“We have to have campaign finance reform. It is the most important issue in my view that we face at the federal and state levels,” Santarsiero said. “If we don’t do it, all the other things that we want to try to affect at the end of the day will not be successful.”
Santarsiero tried unsuccessfully to get a similar resolution approved in the last legislative session. He believes growing concerns about the influence of money in politics gives him a better chance now.
You can read Santarsiero’s resolution here.