Answer To Campaign Finance Offered

Illustration By Cory M. Grenier

Legislation has been unveiled that would change the way political advertisements are seen during a campaign. The proposal is in response to the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v Federal Election Commission.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) was one of four Democratic Senators at the foot of the Supreme Court to denounce its 5-4 decisions.

“We are saying this was a terrible decision. One of the worst decisions that has come from the Supreme Court, I think, in its history,” Schumer said.

A bold statement.  He is referring to a decision that impacts his reelection bid, as well as anyone’s election campaign.

In January, after hearing the case twice, the Supreme Court overturned long-standing restrictions on elections. The Court ruled that corporations can now directly spend money in campaigns.

As the 2010 mid term elections inch closer, lawmakers are scrambling to respond.

The DISCLOSE Act would attempt to reveal the people behind the money. “This is sunshine at its brightest,” Schumer said.

Just as candidates are required to identify themselves on their political ads, the heads of companies, unions and special interest groups, known as 501s and 527s, would have to do the same.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called it the ‘say-it-to-my-face ads.’

Front groups created to influence an election would be required to identify their top five campaign donors.

Furthermore, corporations and advocacy groups would have to set up campaign accounts with traceable donations.

UPDATE: Labor unions would be required to abide by the new campaign disclosure rules. The SEIU offered its support but would like the bill to do more.

In a statement, the SEIU said the bill needs to protect workers from bosses who direct employees to campaign for a candidate while on the job. They would also like shareholder say for the corporations that use 401k, mutual funds and pension money for political campaigns.

In a statement, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger said the legislation should guarantee “corporate political spending is transparent and that corporate CEOs are held accountable for spending other peoples’ money on politics.”

EARLIER POST: The bill would also attempt to address a perceived loophole of the Supreme Court decision, that foreigners can influence the US election through foreign corporations. The bill would prohibit any US subsidiary with more than 20 % foreign ownership from contributing to campaigns.

It also prevents candidates from coordinating with unions, corporations, an interest groups.

Political parties are excluded. Party leaders are not required to appear on camera or reveal their top five donors.

Noticeably absent from the release was Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). He disagreed with the Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling in January and has been an outspoken proponent of campaign restrictions with McCain-Feingold.

Shorty after the measure was introduced, opposition surfaced.

In a harsh statement Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill silences free speech.  He wrote, “It should be beyond suspicious when the man in charge of electing Democrats in the House teams up with the man who held the same job in the Senate to tell Americans how they can express themselves in an election.” McConnell continued: “The campaign finance bill…is not about reform, transparency, accountability or good government. It is about election advantage plain and simple.”

David Bossie, President of Citizens United, the group in which the Supreme Court sided, said this bill would have a “chilling“ impact on free speech.

“This is a government take over our free speech,” Bossie said.

Though when asked what part of the bill limits speech, he was unable to expand.

Meanwhile, a similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the member ahead of the House Democratic campaign committee in charge of electing Democrats to the House, unveiled the bill.

Unlike the Senate, he had two Republican supporters. One is Representative Mike Castle (R-Del.) who is running for Vice President Joe Biden’s former Senate seat. “It will simply require public disclosure of who is paying for the political advertisement,” Castle said.

Proponents hope to have the legislation passed before the November elections.

Read the summary of the bill.

Follow Leigh Ann Caldwell on Twitter and hear an audio version of the story on FSRN.


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