U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan on Monday said he's embarked on a long, uphill battle to fundamentally change U.S. election laws, saying without new direction that American democracy could fail.
Nolan, D-Crosby, said he will introduce an overriding "Restore Democracy" effort with a series of bills to limit campaign spending and shed more light on who is contributing to whom.
"The simple truth is that powerful interests with massive amounts of money our corrupting our government,'' Nolan said at a press conference and rally in Duluth. "It needs to change or it will destroy our democracy, if not destroy our nation."
Many members of Congress now spend more time raising money than in committee hearings, Nolan said, and only a couple dozen of the 435 seats are truly competitive because district lines have been drawn to protect incumbents.
Nolan said his effort is multi-pronged, and that he will introduced separate bills for each aspect to allow his fellow lawmakers to "pick and choose'' what they will support.
Nolan's House Resolution will call on Congress to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision allowing corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions by limiting the campaign season for Congress to 60 days; outlawing voter suppression efforts or restrictive voter identification rules; ending partisan redistricting in House districts across the nation; and restoring the traditional House system of so-called "regular order'' in which bills move up through a system of subcommittee and committees "so we can start getting important things done again through the bipartisan committee process, with every bill debated under an open rule, and every amendment given an up or down vote."
Virgil Boehland, head of the Duluth chapter of Move to Amend, the group trying to overturn Citizens United with a constitutional amendment on campaign contributions, said the issue of how campaigns are run eventually determines every other major issue-from environmental policy to social issues and the economy-because it determines who gets elected.
Nolan's reforms are necessary, he said "to get power back to the hands of the people."
Nolan concedes that any campaign reform legislation faces tough chances in the Republican-controlled House but said he's willing to start the effort. So far he doesn't have any co-authors, let alone scheduled or promised committee hearings.
"It's an effort to begin the conversation. To ignite the debate,'' Nolan said. "Big ideas inevitably require a long and vigorous debate."
Nolan's effort on Monday received support from several groups including Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, Common Cause, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Duluth Move to Amend and the Northeast Area Labor Council.