April 30, 2010
Reaction to Thursday's unveiling of legislation to increase disclosure in political advertising in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC ruling in January was mixed, but the plaintiff in the case is leaving the door open for more court action.
The bill, crafted by Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer of New York and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, would require CEOs of corporations, labor unions and other interest groups to disclose their spending in political advertisements.
Citizens United spokesman Will Holley said the organization was still examining the legislation, but the group would challenge the measure in court if "[we] feel it infringes on our First Amendment rights."
Citizens United President David Bossie said in a statement the bill "would force groups of modest means like Citizens United to spend thousands of dollars of donor money on a battery of attorneys and accountants. This is precisely what the Supreme Court ... sought to avoid."
Jeff Patch, spokesman for the Center for Competitive Politics, said his group "will certainly be among the groups challenging this legislation in court, probably at the amicus level."
Conservative groups have slammed the bill as chilling free speech. The court ruled that corporate spending on independent broadcasts could not be limited.
Schumer said earlier Thursday that the bill would level the playing field by not allowing corporations and unions to influence elections more than average citizens. He singled out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a group that corporations anonymously funnel money to for ads.
Chamber President Tom Donohue called the bill "an abuse of the legislative process and unconstitutional."
Left-leaning groups said the bill needs to go even further. Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said the bill needs protections for investors and retirees to have a say in how corporations spend pension and 401(k) funds on politics, and contended the measure does not protect workers from retaliation.
"Can they say 'no,' without fear of reprisal, when their boss tells them to hand out campaign flyers in front of the office?" Burger asked.
Although the House version of the bill attracted GOP Reps. Michael Castle of Delaware and Walter Jones of North Carolina, Republican leaders bashed the bill.
"I find it interesting that Democrats here in Congress have chosen the heads of their two campaign committees to drive this process, to stifle speech in America," said House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio. Schumer is a former chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price of Georgia accused Democrats of writing the bill "behind closed doors."
House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., however, noted the bill had bipartisan sponsorship and said he hopes "more Republicans will join Democrats in supporting transparency and accountability in political campaigns when it comes to the House floor for a vote."
April 30, 2010