By Benjamin Goad - 06/03/14 12:50 PM EDT
Sen. Ted Cruz introduced legislation Tuesday that would deny Congress the power to regulate political spending.
A pair of bills penned by the Texas Republican would eliminate caps on direct contributions from individuals to candidates and set forth that all laws related to political speech apply equally to ordinary citizens and media corporations.
The bills’ introduction came as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered competing testimony on Capitol Hill regarding a Democratic plan to empower Congress to regulate political fundraising.
The Democratic proposal, offered in response high-profile Supreme Court rulings relaxing campaign finance regulations, would require a constitutional amendment. Though the effort stands little chance of success, Cruz and other Republicans have seized on the initiative as an attack on the First Amendment.
“Senate Democrats are seeking unfettered power to regulate and stifle political speech, which is why today, it’s more important than ever to champion the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution,” Cruz said in a written statement. “Once Congress can prohibit spending money, it can prohibit almost every form of speech, whether it comes to books, films, television advertisements, or events.”
Cruz’s SuperPAC Elimination Act of 2014 would eliminate the caps on direct contributions to candidates from individuals and would also require all donations over $200 to be disclosed within 24 hours.
The second bill, dubbed the Free All Speech Act, would require that all restrictions on political speech that apply to individuals also apply to media corporations. At the same time, the bill would ensure that if legislation is found to be unconstitutional as applied to the media, it may not be forced on individuals.
The latter legislation is meant to put average people on an “even playing field” with the media when it comes to free speech, Cruz said.
The high court’s controversial decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC served to loosen restrictions on campaign spending for corporations and scrapped longtime overall limits on the amount of money individual donors can spend in a single election cycle.
Critics, largely from the liberal end of the political spectrum, have decried the rulings as allowing new torrents of money into a federal election system already skewed in favor of donors with deep pockets.
Democrats have pledged to bring to the Senate floor the amendment authorizing Congress to impose regulations by year’s end.
Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress and must be ratified by three-quarters of the states.
Conservatives argue that restrictions sought by their political adversaries amount to a violation of free speech rights.
“Money is and always has been used as a critical tool of speech,” Cruz said earlier this year.