“It was a bad situation,” Reid said at a Senate Judiciary hearing on Tuesday where he spoke in favor of a constitutional amendment that would give Congress power to regulate federal campaign spending.
“I felt so unclean for lack of a better word,” Reid said, referring to his Senate campaign that year where there were no federal restrictions on campaign contributions.
“A person could give lots of money. One person gave a quarter of a million dollars for the state party. Of course he wanted me to know that he had done it. Now Mr. President, I hope that did not corrupt me, but it was corrupting,” Reid said.
Reid was at the witness table at the hearing in support of Senate Joint Resolution 19, which has been signed onto by 42 Democrat senators – not including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the committee which Reid addressed.
The other witness on the first panel was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who spoke out against an amendment that he said was designed to silence political discourse.
The amendment would, McConnell said, “give us the power to pick winners and losers in the political discussion in this country.”
McConnell also said Congress would not pass the amendment and called the hearing a “political exercise.”
At the hearing, Reid praised the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which was examined by the U.S. Supreme Court after a conservative group was accused of violating the law by spending money to promote an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary. The high court ruled in 2010 in favor of Citizen United, opening the way for unrestricted political speech and campaign contributions.
The Senate bill is designed to reverse the Supreme Court decision by amending the Constitution.
Reid said the campaign reform law made him feel “clean” in elections following its passage.
“So when I ran in 2004, it was like I’d taken a bath,” Reid said. “And I felt so clean, because it was an election that everyone who was involved in a federal election had to list where they got the money; there was a limit on how much you could ask and get from someone else.
“You could -- you listed their occupation and so on,” Reid said. “That was wonderful.”
Reid said the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Citizens United put federal elections “back in the sewer.”