At National Archives, ReFormers Debate Free Speech and Campaign Finance

Update: You can catch a replay of this event on C-SPAN 3 on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 11 a.m.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the infamous Buckley vs. Valeo Supreme Court decision that first equated money with speech, Issue One partnered with the National Archives and the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress (USAFMC) to present a panel discussion at the Archives Thursday night called “The History of Finance in American Political Campaigns.”

The ReFormers Caucus was well-represented on the panel, with the participation of Ambassador Tim Roemer (D-IN), Senator Bill Brock (R-TN), Senator Bennett Johnston (D-LA) and Congressman Tim Petri (R-WI). They were joined on the panel by Meredith McGehee, Policy Director at the Campaign Legal Center and moderator Jeff Shesol. Introductory remarks were made by the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero and USAFMC President and ReFormers Caucus member Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly (D-CT).

The lively discussion defined Buckley as a root cause of the excessive power of money in our political system today, and characterized the money-in-politics problem as a crisis of our democracy. Senator Brock described the problem as, “an erosion of everything this country stands for,” while Meredith McGehee cautioned that democracy isn’t our guaranteed birthright, and that we could lose it if we don’t act.

Panelists advocated for a range of solutions. Ambassador Roemer called on President Obama to sign an executive order mandating disclosure of political spending by federal contractors. Several panelists cited the need to reform the Federal Election Commission so that it could effectively enforce the law. Congressman Petri called for new ways to fund elections, such as public matching or tax rebates to amplify the voices of small donors. Senator Johnston called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Buckley, Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions.

All panelists were united in saying that this is a problem we can and must fix to return the reins of our democracy to the hands of voters and restore faith in our democratic institutions.

Watch the event here.