Campaign finance reform is an immense and complex issue, but the principles behind it are simple: one voice, one vote. In the wake of two major Supreme Court cases, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010) and McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission (2014), advocates for fair elections are seeking to reverse the effects of these decisions by enacting new laws to limit campaign contributions and expenditures.
In 2011, months after the Citizens United decision, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced a Senate joint resolution to propose a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to limit campaign contributions and expenditures. The resolution saw little action until recently, when the Senate voted to block the amendment, a move that demonstrates continued disregard for the core principle of equality that should guide our elections and civic participation. Constitutional amendments are a long, slow process in the United States; recall the ongoing fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. But the process has not discouraged legislators and advocates from seeking lasting solutions and permanent reform.
As Jews, we must heed the warnings of our ancient texts that speak to the dangers of mixing money and politics (Deuteronomy 16:19). We are also commanded to stand up for the widow, the poor, the orphan and the stranger. In the words of former Commission on Social Action director Leonard Fein, of blessed memory, Jews have always acted on the belief that both our moral obligations and our self-interest require “a politics that speaks to the needs of those who have been left out or left behind, a politics of inclusion.” It is the poor and the immigrant who are ignored in a system where the currency that matters most is money rather than ideas. It is the poor who suffer when policy decisions are made by those who are dependent on the small percentage of the population that supplies the largest percentage of campaign contributions. Looking ahead to the November elections and beyond, it is imperative that we ensure every voter’s voice is truly equal, neither amplified nor silenced by outsized campaign contributions.