Federalism and Campaign Finance Reform

Why does Congress have the right to control the conduct of its own elections? Why don’t the states have the authority to decide how their members of Congress are elected?

That question was raised at the Constitutional Convention on August 9, 1787, in a motion by John Rutledge and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina. James Madison rose in opposition to the motion, and argued at length that the states should not be given this power. He said “the State Legislatures will sometimes fail or refuse to consult the common interest at the expense of their local convenience or prejudices.” And he said “It was impossible to foresee all the abuses that might be made of the discretionary power.” He argued that since many state legislatures were malapportioned, their congressional districts would also be malapportioned. He also claimed that since the state legislatures chose their senators, “the latter could therefor be trusted, their representatives could not be dangerous.” Madison was persuasive, and the Rutledge-Pinckney motion did not prevail.

Madison’s reliance on the Senate to protect the states’ interests made some sense before the 17th Amendment, which took Senate elections away from state legislatures.. In the 19th century, many state legislators sold their vote to the highest bidder, and a Senate seat could be purchased. The Senate would not address the problem, so reformers began the first serious attempt to use Article V. When they had 30 of the 32 state resolutions needed to call for an Amendment Convention, the Senate finally passed the 17th Amendment. Madison’s fear of malapportionment was also, of course, before Reynolds v. Sims, which declared the practice unconstitutional,

And in 1787 it was far fetched to think that Congress, abusing this power over its own elections, would create a thoroughly corrupt and rigged system for its own benefit.

The idea of entrusting Congress with the power to control its own elections is an 18th century relic, and it needs to be revisited. State legislators need to call for an Article V Amendment Convention on campaign finance reform. In order to be ratified by 38 states, any proposed amendment must be bipartisan, and must include provisions ensuring that no state discriminate against voting by racial or other minorities.

This is campaign finance reform, on a state by state basis.

Proposed 28th Amendment: (1)Article 1, Section 4 is repealed and reenacted to read, The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in in each State by the Legislature thereof; but no State shall, in its elections, discriminate against voters on the basis of race, sex, or national origin. (2) Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to forbid the States from reasonably regulating and limiting contributions and spending in campaigns, elections or ballot measures. (3) The States shall have the power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and artificial entities, including by prohibiting artificial entities from raising and spending money in campaigns, elections, or ballot measures

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