Our national debt and deficit. Immigration. Safe schools and communities. Responsibly developing our natural resources. Our troops serving overseas.
There are no easy answers to the complex issues facing our nation. But there is one step we can take right now to unlock the political will necessary to tackle these issues and put America on the path to long-term prosperity.
We must fix our broken election system.
Thatís why this week, I introduced a constitutional amendment that clarifies that corporations are not ďpeople.Ē My amendment puts elections back in the hands of regular folks by restoring the right of Congress to limit corporate influence in elections, preventing the kind of unlimited and undisclosed spending that plagued our elections in 2012.
Iíve seen how dark, secret money warps elections and prevents officials from doing whatís right to move our country forward.
After the Supreme Courtís 2010 Citizens United decision opened the floodgates, outside groups deluged Americaís airwaves in 2012 with millions of dollars of political ads. Americans who turned on their TV or opened their newspaper often couldnít tell who was paying for these ads because the groups behind them didnít have to reveal their donors.
As a result, Montanaís 2012 Senate re- election race was the most expensive in my stateís history. The price tag topped $47 million, meaning groups spent almost $100 for every vote cast. Outside groups, such as super PACs, poured so much money into my state that Montanans sat through more campaign ads than the citizens of any other state in our nationís history.
We may never know the source of much of this money, but we know that it distorts our elections. Secret money drowns out the ideas and priorities of regular Americans in favor of the special interests of big corporations. And the threat of future spending deters elected officials from making the tough choices needed to do whatís best for our country.
Americans deserve better. In Montana, weíve already demanded it. Last year, in the same election that Montanans re-elected me to the Senate, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of directing Montanaís entire congressional delegation to introduce legislation amending the U.S. Constitution to make it clear that corporations are not entitled to the same rights as you or me.
This isnít the first time Montanans have been ahead of the rest of the nation. Our efforts to stand up to corporate influence dates back to the early 1900s, when wealthy mining corporations used their money to buy elections. In response, our forefathers voted in 1912 to limit corporate influence.
Our law stood for 100 years until the Supreme Court overturned it last year.
Now itís time to kick off another century of free and fair elections ó because fixing our political system matters for our future. Leaders who work on behalf of the people create more middle-class jobs, cut our debt in ways that make sense and allow us to make smart investments that benefit our future generations.
But making sure that people and their ideas, not corporations and their money, decide our elections is personal to me ó and it should be to you, too.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.