Schumer, Van Hollen outline limits on corporate political spending, urge quick action

Two key Democratic lawmakers on Thursday outlined their plan to counter the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that could allow corporations to spend an unlimited amount of money on politics.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) identified five areas that their proposal will limit certain types of corporate contributions and discourage corporations from spending an unlimited sum on political campaigns.

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The bill, which Schumer said will be introduced when Congress returns to session after the President's Day recess, will ban foreign contributions and prevent bailout recipients who have not paid back federal funds from spending unlimited funds.

It will also impose new disclosure requirements on corporate donations, implement stand-by-your-ad provisions on corporate-backed ads and require that candidates get reasonable airtime to to rebut corporate ads if they act first.

"If we don't act quickly, this decision will have an immediate and devastating impact on the 2010 elections," Schumer said on a conference call with reporters, saying that Congress is on "deadline" to pass the bill.

Regardless of what Congress does, "it will go down as one of the worst decision the Supreme Court has ever issued," Schumer said.

The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission could allow corporations to spend freely on political campaigns. Democrats and some Republicans countered that the ruling would allow special interests to exercise undue influence on politics. 

Some experts also believe that labor unions could be allowed to spend unlimited dollars on politics.

Van Hollen and Schumer announced last month that they would introduce legislation to blunt the decision.

Despite the fact that most Republicans hailed the decision as a victory for free speech and one that could allow political parties to spend more money, Schumer hoped that they would support their bill.

"We hope to get Republican support," he said. "It's hard to see how Republicans could be against disclosure for influence on our government and so-called pay to play."

Schumer also said that he expected opponents of the bill to challenge it in court, but expected that a judge would allow the legislation to be in effect during a legal challenge because of thr way it is written.

The New York senator and Maryland congressman carefully laid out how the components would impact corporations.

Van Hollen said that the bill considers a foreign corporation as a company that has at least 20 percent foreign ownership, a company that is controlled by a majority of foreign board members or a domestic corporation that is owned by foreign entities.

Schumer said that the disclosure requirements would be able to ensure that the Federal Elections Commission could track corporate funds from "shell companies" and money that is "funneled" to other corporations. 

He also said that CEOs of the companies would appear in "I approve this message" scenes at the end of media ads just like political candidates must.

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