Democrats to push campaign finance reform legislation

House Democrats will use the month of December to push legislation overhauling the way elections are funded, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus announced Wednesday.

Warning that the 2012 elections will likely be the most expensive in the country's history, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said Democrats will be introducing "several" campaign finance reform proposals before the end of the year. 

ADVERTISEMENT
"We continue to believe that this whole system is awash [in] money and needs reform," Larson told reporters in the Capitol. "The public is increasingly wising up to that. I think you're going to see several proposals emanating from our committees and from Democratic leaders in our caucus."

They have a tough road ahead, as Republican leaders in both chambers have opposed recent Democratic efforts to reform the campaign finance system, arguing that limitations on spending — by individuals or corporations alike — infringe on free speech.

The Republican critics were encouraged by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United case, in which the high court ruled that funding caps on corporate ads targeting individual candidates violate the First Amendment. The ruling effectively undid certain provisions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, which was designed to prevent a deluge of corporate money from corrupting elections.

The case ushered in a flood of campaign advertising from outside groups in the last election, many of which did not have to disclose their donors.

To counter that ruling, the White House and Democrats tried last year to move legislation — the Disclose Act — that would have required outside groups to reveal their donors. The proposal passed the House but was blocked by GOP leaders in the Senate, notably Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Larson on Wednesday said revisiting the issue is vital "as we gear up for presidential races that could be in the billions [of dollars]."