WASHINGTON -- Arguing for a constitutional amendment to bar unlimited spending in politics, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the flood of unregulated campaign dollars made him feel "unclean."
The Nevada Democrat said he first experienced the unpleasantness of unchecked cash when he narrowly defeated John Ensign (R) in 1998, when Supreme Court rulings allowed money to be funneled through state parties. Each side spent about $10 million in that race, Reid said.
"It was a bad situation. I felt so unclean, for lack of a better word," Reid said, speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a rare joint appearance with his GOP counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). "A person could give lots of money. One person gave a quarter of a million dollars. Of course, he wanted me to know that he had done."
"I hope that did not corrupt me, but it was corrupting," Reid added.
He said that the legislative reaction to that election cycle was for Congress to pass the McCain-Feingold Act that put the clamps back on unregulated money.
"When I ran in 2004, it was like I had taken a bath," Reid said. "That was wonderful, and then comes 2010 -- back into the sewer."
In that year, the Supreme Court jettisoned restrictions on outside campaign spending with the Citizens United ruling.
Reid ultimately defeated Sharron Angle, a tea party challenger who relied on millions in outside spending.
"That race was, as far as I was concerned, not a lot of fun," Reid said. "2010 made 1998 seem like a picnic in the park. Money [was] coming from everyplace."
He estimated that $120 million was poured into the contest.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.