US lawmakers call for legislation to limit corporate campaign spending

[JURIST] US lawmakers on Thursday called for legislation [summary, PDF] to mitigate the effects of the recent Supreme Court decision easing restrictions [JURIST report] on political campaign spending by corporations. The proposal was put forth by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Representative Chris van Hollen (D-MD) [official websites]. As outlined, the legislation would ban foreign companies, or those controlled by foreign companies or governments, from contributing to US elections. Additionally, it would ban government contractors and the recipients of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) [official website] funds from contributing. The legislative outline also proposed that corporate CEOs be required to appear at the end of any political advertising they funded to endorse it, and would require corporate entities to report their spending to the Federal Election Committee [official website]. In a press conference [video] explaining the proposal, Schumer said:


The [Citizens United v. FEC] decision was coercive to our democracy, hard to understand, and ... an infuriating one. ... Unlike most bills, this one has a deadline for action. ... If we don't act quickly, the court's ruling will have an immediate and disastrous impact on the 2010 elections. So our goal is to advance the legislation quickly, otherwise the Supreme Court will have predetermined the winner of the midterm elections. It won't be the Republicans or the Democrats. It will be corporate America.

In his statements, Schumer also referenced a poll [results, PDF] released last Monday, which found that 64 percent of those polled were against the ruling, including a majority of self-described Republicans.

Last month, the US Supreme Court decided [opinion, PDF] 5-4 in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LII backgrounder] to ease restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations. The court was asked to consider Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act [text, PDF], which prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an "electioneering communication" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. President Barack Obama sharply criticized [JURIST report] the decision in his State of the Union Address [transcript] last month. Obama warned of the increased potential for powerful interest groups, both foreign and domestic, to wield excessive influence over American elections and called for bipartisan support of legislation to counteract the decision. The decision has caused a deep partisan divide [CNN report] over the topic, with Democratic officials largely opposing the decision, and Republican officials mostly in support.


 

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