Lindsey Graham at Turbocam on April 8
Senator Lindsey Graham held a town hall-style meeting at Turbocam in Barrington, NH on April 8, 2015. It turned out to be a good opportunity for a lively exchange on the Citizens United decision and campaign finance reform.
Since the Supreme Court struck down the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, it's been like "the wild, wild, west" on the campaign trail, Graham said. "If we don’t figure this out soon, we are going to lose what has been a pretty good system," he added.
Asked specifically about support for an amendment that would counter-act the impact of the Citizens United decision, the Senator said, "I think that is probably the only way."
Here's a transcript:
Q: My question regards the recent Supreme Court decisions including Citizens United, that said that corporations have the same rights as people, and that money equals speech, and I’m wondering do you agree with those decisions, and if not, what would you do to overturn them?
A: OK, Citizens United basically struck down parts of McCain-Feingold, and now it’s the wild, wild west. How many of you guys have seen these? You’re going to be sick of political ads before this campaign is over. I can only tell you what happened in North Carolina, I’m from South Carolina. They spent $100 million dollars on the Senate races in North Carolina. I got so sick of seeing ads…half the people in South Carolina thought they were voting for the two candidates in North Carolina. The only way you can change this, I think, is through a constitutional amendment. I don’t know if we can get one passed, but here is what you’ve opened up to…right now, I need about 15 million dollars to be competitive on the campaign side. That is a lot of getting on the phone, and calling, and $2700 events, and a lot of just fundraising. But one person who doesn’t like me can write a check to wipe all that out. What I worry about is that we are turning campaigns over to about 100 people in this country, and they are going to be able to advocate their cause at the expense of your cause. If we don’t figure this out soon, we are going to lose what has been a pretty good system. Money in politics has to be regulated, because, if it’s not, you lose your influence. You lose your voice. Do you think unlimited giving by a handful of people doesn’t affect legislation? I’m in the place—I can tell you it would. So ma’am, I don’t know, but somebody needs to figure out a way to deal with Citizens United, or we will lose the democracy that a lot of people died for.
Q: What, Citizens United, you’re saying, a constitutional amendment…
A: I think that is probably the only way…can’t think of a better way…
Q: The Senate voted on a bill…
A: Yeah, the problem is that they had a loophole for unions you could drive a truck through. I am not going to unilaterally disarm as a Republican.
Q: What would you personally do? It is…it is just a tremendous threat to our democratic system.
A: I think…no, the next President of the United States ought to get some smart people in a room and say, all right, give us some views, some options here…how can we constitutionally move forward where no one party gets an advantage over the other....
Q: Question about money in politics…do you think the money is the bigger problem or the fact that there is something to buy with it? If we had less, uh, if there was less government involvement in so many areas, people wouldn’t be willing to throw all their money to try to influence it.
A: Well I think the size of government does attract money, I mean we’re spending about four trillion dollars a year—there’s a lot to lobby about.