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Amended campaign finance legislation introduced in Senate

US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official website] on Wednesday introduced an amended version of the Senate campaign finance bill [S 3628 materials] in order to gain support from moderate Republicans in the hope of increasing the chance of the bill's passage. The bill, known as the Disclose Act, was developed in response to the January US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report], which eased restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations. If signed into law, the bill would prohibit corporations receiving federal contracts worth more than $7 million from spending money on "electioneering communications" and would also prohibit foreign-controlled domestic corporations from financing campaigns. The new version of the bill removes several provisions included in the version passed by the US House of Representatives [JURIST report] last month, including exemptions in the bill which may benefit unions over corporations [The Hill report]. Another provision added to the amended legislation would require organizations funding political advertising in states where they do not do business to disclose the location of the organization. The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the bill on Monday and could vote on the bill as early as Tuesday. It is unclear whether Democrats will have the 60 votes needed for cloture on the bill.

Senate Democrats first introduced their version of the Disclose Act [JURIST report] in April after the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] held hearings [JURIST report] in March on the effects of the Citizens United decision. In Citizens United, the court struck down 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] in January. 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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