U.S. Senator Dick Durbin leads panel challenging power of Citizens United

July 26, 2012

Carrie Shepherd and Kate Dries

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On Tuesday, Illinois' senior senator Dick Durbin endorsed a constitutional amendment to limit the power of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. Durbin led a subcommittee hearing about this Supreme Court decision, which allows unlimited campaign spending.

He isn't eager to make changes to the U.S. Constitution. He told Eight Forty-Eight's Tony Sarabia: "I do believe it is, at least, a politically sacred document," and says he approaches any alterations to the document with caution. The Senate Majority Whip says he wants to remove the majority of campaign money from the few hands that might discourage the "mere mortals" from running a viable campaign.

"Listen, I've been in the House and Senate for a number of years and I'm not one of these people who races to amend the constitution....you ought to be careful," said Durbin. "And I know colleagues of mine don't view it the same way but I really pick and choose those things that I think are worthy of an amendment to that great document. This is one of them."

Republicans were absent from the hearing, and Sen. Durbin's counterpart across the aisle, Sen. Mark Kirk, has been absent from Congress since a stroke sidelined him earlier this year. Durbin said he spoke with Kirk last week and is confident in the junior's senator's recovery but isn't making any predictions. He said, however, he'll be the first one at the Congress steps to welcome his colleague back to work when he's ready.  

Durbin shared a few more of his thoughts about Citizens United:

"What I have found is that massive reform requires massive scandal."
- U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin

"I looked at legislative approach to try to moderate Citizens United and it has failed repeatedly in the Senate and it won't even be brought up for a vote in the house. It's an indication to me that the republicans feel they have a political advantage with Citizens United and they will not even join us in calling for disclosure, let alone any limitations on that Supreme Court case."

"There's one thing though that gives me some hope: I've been observing the Illinois political scene for decades and with one exception...the high bankrolling candidates have not succeeded. There's a built-in skepticism when people plow massive amounts of money into a campaign."

"What I have found is that massive reform requires massive scandal. That's a pretty well-proven theorem when it comes to political science. The question is whether the American people will be so fed up with Citizens United and the mess it makes of our political process that they're going to basically speak out."