[Congressional Record Volume 143, Number 35 (Tuesday, March 18, 1997)]
[Pages S2379-S2382]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. BYRD. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in an oration delivered on August 31, 
1867, said:

       This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but 
     know what to with it.

  ``This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what 
to do with it.''
  As the Senate considers the proposed constitutional amendment offered 
by our distinguished colleague from South Carolina, Senator Hollings, 
it is my fervent hope that each of us takes heed of Emerson's 
portentous words.
  We have an opportunity to take an important step in the direction of 
restoring the people's faith in our ability

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to rise above partisanship and really do something about our present 
system of financing Federal campaigns. It is rotten. It is putrid. It 
stinks. The danger, as always, is that we will ``circle the wagons,'' 
and avoid taking legal action aimed at meaningful reform.
  Mr. President, as each day dawns, the public is confronted with new 
and increasingly garish allegations concerning the campaign financing 
practices that have become a way of life in our Nation.
  Mr. President, we may be able to fool ourselves, but the time has 
come for all of us to stop trying to fool the American people. They are 
more than aware that both political parties--both political parties, 
not just one--abuse the current system and that both political parties 
fear to change because they don't want to lose their own perceived 
advantages. One party perceives certain advantages, and the other party 
perceives different advantages to its cause. But the insidious system 
of campaign fundraising and the increasing awareness by the people of 
our unwillingness to change it, will eventually lead to the destruction 
of our very system of Government. For our own sakes and for the sake of 
our people we must find ways to stop this political minuet, and come to 
grips with the fact that we can't have it both ways. We can't continue 
to launch broadsides at each other and refuse to admit that we all bear 
the blame--all of us, in both parties. We have it in our power to 
change things and the excuses we creatively craft to duck that 
responsibility are utterly hollow and quite transparent.
  The incessant money chase that currently permeates every crevice of 
our political system is like an unending circular marathon. And it is a 
race that sends a clear message to the people that it is money--money--
money, not ideas, not principles, but money that reigns supreme in 
American politics. No longer are candidates judged fit for office first 
and foremost by their positions on the issues. No longer are they 
judged by their experience and their capabilities. Instead, potential 
candidates are judged by their ability to raise the millions, and tens 
of millions of dollars, and even hundreds of millions of dollars that 
it takes to run an effective campaign.
  The average cost of a U.S. Senate race is $4.5 million. When I first 
ran for the U.S. Senate in 1958, I ran with Jennings Randolph, as the 
two candidates for the Senate. We were two candidates for two different 
Senate seats from West Virginia. Jennings Randolph ran for the 2-year 
term, the unexpired term of the late Matthew Mansfield Neely. I ran for 
the 6-year term. Each of us won the nomination, and then after the 
primary we joined together and we marshaled our monetary forces, which 
amounted to something like $50,000--$50,000 for two Senators. And that 
was more than had earlier been necessary in campaigns in West Virginia. 
We didn't have much television in those days. We didn't have political 
consultants. And so we ran on a war chest of $50,000. But the average 
cost of a U.S. Senate race today is $4.5 million. It can cost $10 
million or $20 million or more to run for the Senate in some parts of 
the country today.
  Now, how in the future can a poor boy from back in the sticks of West 
Virginia, or any other State, hope to become a United States Senator? 
How can a former welder in a shipyard, a former meatcutter in a coal 
mining community, a former produce salesman, a former groceryman--how 
can one hope to ascend the ladder to the high office of United States 
Senator? It will be beyond the means of such persons.
  The American people believe that the way to gain access and influence 
on Capitol Hill is through money. And the American people are exactly 
right. The way to gain access on Capitol Hill, the way to get the 
attention of Members of this body is through money. The Bible says, 
``The love of money is the root of all evil.'' This campaign system 
that we now have bears that out.
  Anyone who reads the daily newspaper would have no trouble coming to 
the conclusion that the best way to gain access to the White House is 
to be a so-called ``fat cat contributor.'' Now, who can fault such 
logic? It is as plain as the nose on your face. We have to stop this 
madness. We must put an end to the seemingly limitless escalation of 
campaign costs and their pervasive influence of the special interests 
and the wealthy. We must act to put the United States Senate, the House 
of Representatives, and the Presidency of the United States back within 
the reach of anyone with the brains, the spirit, the guts, and the 
desire to want to serve. And the proposed constitutional amendment 
before us today is a necessary step on the way to accomplishing that 
  Now, I am aware that opponents of this measure--and they have a right 
to their opinion--would say that it would be wrong to amend the 
Constitution in this fashion. They will say that, although I may be 
right about the need for change in our current fundraising system, I am 
just wrong about this proposed amendment. I am very reluctant to amend 
the Constitution, but I am not above amending it. The Constitution 
contains a provision, as we all know, that was included by the framers 
of that document that points the way and is the guide, the roadmap to 
amending the Constitution. It is well known that I believe that we 
tinker with the careful checks and balances of that document at our 
peril. But a Supreme Court decision in Buckley versus Valeo, a decision 
which I believe to be flawed, has all but doomed the prospects for 
comprehensive legislative reform of this campaign finance system 
otherwise. By equating campaign expenditures with free speech, Buckley 
versus Valeo has made it impossible for us to control the ever-
spiraling money chase and to put anything but voluntary spending limits 
on Federal campaigns. This basic inflexibility makes any legislation 
intended to control the cancerous effects of too much money in politics 
complicated and convoluted. The contortions such legislation has to 
resort to, simply because we cannot mandate spending limits, create new 
opportunities for abuse as fast as we attempt to close down the old 

  How do we pass any statute--any statute of consequence, that is--when 
the Supreme Court has told us that spending equals speech? Spending 
equals speech. Well, if that is the case, I don't have the equality of 
free speech that many Members in this body profess.
  How do we place any kind of reasonable limit on fundraising and 
spending when the law of the land says that to do so violates the first 
amendment of the Constitution? How do we end $40 million Senate 
campaigns and $400 million Presidential campaigns when the Supreme 
Court tells us that those amounts are constitutionally protected? How 
do we really reform the system within the bounds of that judicial 
interpretation? The plain truth is that it cannot be done effectively 
unless we do amend the Constitution.
  We can tinker around the edges, of course. But we cannot enact 
comprehensive legislation that will get at the heart of the problem. We 
cannot, consistent with the Court's ruling in Buckley versus Valeo, put 
an end to the hundreds of millions of dollars that are raised in ``soft 
money'' contributions, or the hundreds of millions of dollars that are 
spent through so-called ``independent expenditures.'' I wish we could. 
But the fact is that we cannot get the kind of legislation we really 
need unless we first pass an amendment to the Constitution which 
nullifies Buckley versus Valeo.
  We have heard the first amendment invoked in Buckley. We have heard 
the argument that we must not infringe upon freedom of speech. I 
believe that a continued failure to control campaign costs is actually 
what is injurious to free speech for all in political campaigns. Money 
has become the great ``unequalizer''--the great ``unequalizer''--in 
political campaigns. Money talks. Money talks, and a lot of money talks 
louder than a little money. Would anyone claim that the average citizen 
or the small contributor has the same access to, the same influence 
with, politicians as the major contributor or the big PAC 
representative? Well, take it from me, he doesn't. Whose opinions are 
heard? Whose free speech is heard? Whose ``speech" gets through to the 
people who count in Washington?
  In the case of elections, who is more likely to win but the candidate 
who can buy more TV time, the candidate who can afford more publicity, 
a bigger staff? So much for free speech. When it comes to our political 
system, speech is very, very, very expensive indeed.

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  In a very real sense, Buckley versus Valeo disenfranchised those of 
moderate and less than moderate means from having their views heard and 
weighted equally with those who can afford to contribute huge sums.
  Who would stand here on the floor and tell me that the money that a 
poor coal miner is able to contribute will entitle that coal miner to 
the same freedom of speech and the same influence with his 
representatives in Washington as the wealthy can enjoy?
  In a very real sense, Buckley versus Valeo, as I say, disenfranchised 
those of moderate means, the individual who works with his hands, who 
earns his bread by the sweat of his brow. He can't speak loudly enough 
to be heard in the corridors of his representatives in Washington.
  The influence of money has completely contorted the intent of the 
first amendment when it comes to our political system. And Buckley 
versus Valeo has written that contortion into our organic law.
  Additionally, Buckley versus Valeo further disenfranchised those who 
might endeavor to run for political office because it makes it 
practically impossible for most individuals to afford to run for office 
themselves unless they are either independently wealthy or a well-
financed incumbent. What is that but an effective denial of the basic 
right of any capable, motivated citizen to stand for Federal office? 
And what is that but the setting up of classes of citizens, some of 
whom have more basic rights, some of whom have more freedom of speech 
because they have more money than others? It is nonsensical.
  I believe that the Court in recent years, beginning with Buckley 
versus Valeo, has been far too dogmatic when it comes to the first 
amendment. First amendment rights are not absolute. Ever since Mr. 
Justice Holmes wrote that the right of freedom of speech does not 
include the right to falsely shout ``fire''--it is all right to shout 
``fire'' in a crowded theater if there is a fire. So there is a 
distinction. The right of freedom of speech does not include the right 
to falsely shout ``fire'' in a crowded theater. Ever since Mr. Justice 
Holmes wrote that, we have realized that there must and can be certain 
limitations on free speech. Certainly when there is a compelling 
Government interest in the prevention of corruption or the appearance 
of corruption, the Court has generally understood that limitations can 
be imposed. There could be few instances in which a compelling 
governmental interest in preventing corruption is more obvious than the 
example of the bedrock of our representative democracy--fair elections.
  As the Court said in Gibney versus Empire Storage and Ice Co., ''. . 
. It has never been deemed an abridgement of freedom of speech or press 
to make a course of conduct illegal merely because the conduct was in 
part initiated, evidenced or carried out by means of language, spoken, 
written or printed.''
  So, Mr. President, when it comes to modern political campaigns, it is 
only when there are no mandated expenditure limits that an inequality 
in free speech arises. The only real way to correct that inequity is to 
mandate limits on campaign expenditures. If the rules of the game are 
equal for all and fair to all, then no one is at a disadvantage simply 
because of purchasing power.
  Mr. Hollings' amendment would begin to correct the mechanistic, 
sterile jurisprudence that has reared its head in recent Court 
decisions regarding the first amendment and set us on a more correct 
course. The various ingenious forms of modern campaigning with their 
outlandish expenditures were never contemplated by James Madison and 
the other framers of the Constitution--never contemplated.
  Only a blatant disregard for the obscene disadvantage which money can 
convey when not controlled in a political campaign could cause one to 
turn a blind eye to the need to respond to violence done to our 
Republic by a continued failure to put some limitations on campaign 
  Mr. President, the time has come to stop. We have tried the 
legislative course. When I was majority leader during the 100th 
Congress, I tried eight times--eight times--to break a filibuster 
against campaign spending reform.
  Robert Bruce, the great leader of the Scots, tried seven times, and 
it was after the seventh time--as he had lain in the loft of a barn and 
seen the spider attempt to spin his web from rafter to rafter, it was 
on the seventh time that the spider was successful in reaching the 
rafter--we are told that gave Robert Bruce the spirit and the 
inspiration and the faith he could try the seventh time and win. Well, 
I tried eight times. I was not successful in breaking the filibuster. I 
tried more times to invoke cloture than any leader has ever tried. It 
would not work. It is not going to work the next time.
  The time has come to stop. It is time to set aside the partisan 
bickering, the constant sniping, the ceaseless one-upmanship, and the 
incessant covering, and do something that will give us the powers 
necessary to get at the root of the problem. Hiding behind the first 
amendment will not work. If we continue to try to hide behind the first 
amendment, we are going to destroy the trust of the people in our 
Government, in our system of Government. That is a system that is based 
on the people's trust.
  It is not valid to hide behind the first amendment. This is about 
allowing more freedom of speech than less. It is about returning 
Government to the man in the street, to the woman who rocks the cradle 
and makes a home. Give them freedom of speech. It is about returning 
Government to that man and that woman and getting it out of the 
corporate boardrooms and the country clubs.
  Fear is a very terrible thing. It is terrible because it paralyzes. 
Fear clouds judgment. Fear of losing advantage is what has driven both 
parties' reluctance to enact meaningful campaign finance reform in the 
past, and that same fear is what is driving the current reluctance. But 
the fixation with maintaining advantage is blinding us to a much 
greater and more serious peril: the total loss of credibility. 
Credibility is a precious commodity. We politicians have collectively 
squandered our credibility over the last several years because of the 
unchecked rise of the influence of money in politics. Already our 
people do not vote. They do not vote because they think politicians are 
all the same and that an individual vote does not matter anymore. 
Politicians are not trusted because all that concerns them, at least to 
the perception of the average citizen, is money and winning the next 
  I served as majority leader from the years 1977 through 1980 and 
again in the years 1987 and 1988, and I served as minority leader 
during the 6 years in between. It was a constant problem to be a leader 
and to program the Senate and to operate the Senate, and became 
increasingly a problem because of the money needs, the needs of the 
money chase. Senators had to go here; they had to go there; they had to 
raise money; they had to go for lunch; they had to go for dinner; they 
had to spend overnight. And it was virtually impossible to schedule 
votes at any time that would please any and everybody.
  The thing that seemed to be most needful in this Senate during those 
years that I was the leader of my party was money, running around the 
country with a tin cup in one's hand raising money for a little, measly 
$134,000-a-year job. It is the most demeaning aspect of our lives as 
Senators, to have to run around and raise money. And it is getting 
  The very fiber of what holds a Republic like ours together--trust--is 
ripping audibly with each new scandal, each new revelation in the 
press. And so I ask my colleagues to turn away from that course. We can 
start today. We can use what appears to be a low point in American 
politics to take an important step toward the good. We can remove this 
obstacle to real reform, crafted by a wrongheaded Supreme Court 
decision, and restore some precious equality to our political system.

  Mr. President, I compliment the distinguished Senator from South 
Carolina, who is our leader in this effort. We probably won't win 
today. But it will be to the American people's loss. ``This is a good 
time,'' as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ``if only we know what to do with 
it.'' Let us not squander an opportunity to begin to fix this 
thoroughly rotten campaign finance system once and for all. Let us not 
continue to disappoint the American people out there.

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  I urge my colleagues to take a stand and support this proposed 
amendment to the Constitution.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.