HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Lawmakers and advocates gathered at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg to discuss a new report on money in Pennsylvania politics.
“For Our Freedom,” a group pushing “to put the power back in the hands of America’s patriots” released a report on the impact of big, untraceable money on policymaking in Pennsylvania over public needs.
According to Medium Buying, which tracks the finances of politics, the Republican Republican U.S. Senate primary saw $55.4 million in TV and radio ad spending. Honor Pennsylvania, a Pro-David McCormick group, spent nearly $18 million during the primary.
In Federal Election Commission filings, Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman received nearly $16 million in contributions, the most among any Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate.
More than $22 million was spent on TV and radio ads in the Republican gubernatorial race, the majority by projected third-place finisher Bill McSwain, according to Medium Buying.
Bill Cortese, the Executive Director of American Promise, says they estimate over $300 million will be spent by campaigns and outside entities in the Pennsylvania elections by November.
“We need to get our arms around this issue, we need to stop dark money from flowing in and influencing US elections.”
State Rep. Megan Schroeder (R-Bucks) says the issue of dark money is a good “call to action for people to call their legislators” to say they want to know where campaign finances are coming from.
“Who’s trying to influence our elections? These people have intentions why they want to play in Pennsylvania and spend money here we need to know why.”
Organizers, including Jeff Clements of American Promise, are lobbying to create a 28th Amendment to “get a handle on this out of control money in our politics,” including so-called “dark money.”
“Dark money is the kind of money that’s funding all those attack ads, the divisive stuff,” said Clements. “You don’t know where the money is coming from. It’s coming from Super PACS, it’s coming from outside interest, it’s coming from global corporations, it’s even coming from foreign governments now.”
In 2010 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations have the ability to spend money on elections and for speech either supporting or rejecting a candidate through the First Amendment protections of Free Speech.
Clements called the ruling a “disastrous mistake” that led to more money and misinformation in politics.
To pass a constitutional amendment, the U.S. Constitution states that an amendment may be proposed either by Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.
A constitutional amendment has not been passed in the United States since the 27th Amendment in 1992 that decided “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
Dave Black, the former President of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber, says the longer dark money remains in elections “the worse it’s gonna be to change.”
“We think now is really the optimal time to get after this,” said Cortese, who acknowledges the business community supports it because they get hit up by the politicians.