Democrats rush to curb corporate election spending before Nov.

Democrats are hoping to fast-track a set of sweeping new campaign finance regulations to prevent the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision from affecting the November midterm elections.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Thursday unveiled the majority party's legislative response to the Citizens United case, which they and other Democrats — including President Barack Obama — have sharply criticized as one that will "open the floodgates" to corporate financing of federal elections.

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Opting against a constitutional amendment to undo the court’s rejection of existing laws that ban certain political spending by corporations, Democrats are proposing to ban donations by foreign-influenced and taxpayer-assisted corporations, as well as a series of tough new disclosure requirements on corporations that would still be allowed to steer money toward political action groups.

“Today we’re beginning to pick up the pieces,” Schumer said at a Thursday press conference in the Capitol.

The former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman said Democrats were prepared for an unfavorable ruling in the Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission case, but said that the actual ruling “surpassed our worst fears.”

With the blessing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Schumer and Van Hollen have written legislation — which they will introduce the week Congress returns from the Presidents Day recess — to ban companies with 20 percent or more foreign make-up, as well as government contractors, from being able to fund political advertisements. But the new ban would also extend to any company that received and has not yet paid back Wall Street bailout funds.

“If you’re AIG or a big Wall Street firm or other firms that received [Troubled Asset Relief Program] monies, until you pay back those TARP monies to the taxpayer, you cannot be using your corporate funds to try and defeat or elect a candidate,” Van Hollen said. “That’s just wrong, and we want to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”

The bill would also impose stricter “follow the money” disclosure provisions that Schumer said would “drill down deep” in order to track exactly how a political ad is funded, would extend the “I approved this ad” disclaimer requirements to company CEOs and would guarantee equal and the least expensive available airtime to candidates facing political attack ads from independently funded groups.


“We think this represents Congress’s best remedy,” Schumer said, who added that the idea of a constitutional amendment, which could take years to ratify, was scrapped in favor of a legislative fix that Democrats hope can be enacted quickly.

The pair do not yet have Republican support for their plan, although Schumer noted that the legislation “could have been broader” but that Democrats were “trying to limit it to the areas where we believe we could get Republican support.”

“This should not be a partisan issue,” Van Hollen said.

At the same time, Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), praised the court’s decision, and later went on the attack against Democrats, including the president, who spoke out against it.

Van Hollen said Democrats have only begun their outreach to Republicans, but Republicans quickly suggested they'd be in no mood to go along with their colleagues in the majority.

"The head of the Democrats' House campaign committee and the former head of the Democrats' Senate campaign committee have teamed up to introduce a bill -- do you think it will make it easier for Democrats to fill their campaign coffers?" quipped Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

-- This article was updated at 4:28 p.m.


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