February 11th, 2010
12:17 PM ET
12 years ago

Democrats move to counter high court campaign finance ruling

Washington (CNN) - Top congressional Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday that would ban foreign-controlled companies and firms receiving either government contracts or federal bailout funds from spending money on U.S. elections.

The bill, slated to be officially introduced later this month, also would require the head of any corporation running a political ad to appear in the commercial to say that he or she "approves this message" - just as candidates themselves do today.

The measure is designed to mitigate the impact of last month's controversial Supreme Court campaign finance ruling, which overturned a long-standing ban on corporations and unions using their treasury funds to run presidential and congressional election ads.

The 5-4 decision - a victory for the high court's conservative majority - also rejected a prohibition on companies and unions running campaign ads 30 days before a primary election or 60 days prior to a general election.


Most GOP leaders have praised the ruling as an affirmation of First Amendment free speech rights. Democrats, however, have slammed the decision as a win for traditionally Republican-leaning corporate interests. President Barack Obama has said the ruling gave "a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics" and called for legislation curbing its impact.

On Thursday, one of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, called the ruling a "corrosive" and "infuriating decision."

The court "inexplicably opened up the floodgates to much greater special interest influence than we have ever seen before," he said.

Among other things, the bill introduced by Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland would require:

- The names of the top five contributors to any organization created for political purposes that purchases advertising to be listed at the end of the ad;

- The top funder of any political advertisement to record a separate "stand-by-your-ad" disclaimer;

- Certain business and unions to establish "political activities" accounts - monitored by the Federal Election Commission - for the purpose of receiving and spending political funds;

- Any political expenditure made by a company to be disclosed within 24 hours on the company's Web site;

- Any political expenditure made by a company to be disclosed to shareholders on a regular basis;

- A ban on corporations and unions coordinating election ads with federal campaigns if those ads promote or oppose a specific candidate.

Foreign companies would be defined in the bill as those with a foreign ownership of 20 percent or more, or those in which a majority of the board of directors is composed of non-U.S. citizens.

In addition, a company would be defined as foreign if its U.S. operations, or its decision-making regarding political activities, is directed by a foreign entity, including a foreign government.


Filed under: Democrats • Supreme Court
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. GI Joe

    Hope the GOP doesn't continue their obstructionism on THIS bill - oh, it will hurt their best friends. Never mind.

    February 11, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    The republicans have destroyed our economy, and now the conservatives in the supreme court (lower case letters only) have destroyed the constitution.

    February 11, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. B

    Good luck trying to get this one done..

    February 11, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  4. diridi

    those idiotic supreme court judges have no brain..I do not know where and which university gave them law school diploma....definetely not any of the indian universities...that's it...corporation is a leagal entity, not a personum....ok....

    February 11, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  5. Michael from Ventura

    Good! That last Supreme Court fiasco needs to be nipped in the bud! And those 5 justices need a boot out the door!

    February 11, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. D.U.T.C.H.

    Thank you for acting swiftly on this democrats. If you haven't noticed, they've already began posting billboards up such as the one with Bush on it asking "Miss Me Yet?" The Supreme Court handed down a grave injust decision that will strip everyday Americans of their power at the ballot. How is my $5 dollar contribution going to match up against a $5,000,000 contribution?

    February 11, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  7. Bill

    Will it also prohibit spending money on lobbying? I didn't think so. As long as politicians can be bought there will be people willing to buy them. The pols should look in the mirror.

    February 11, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. Mike1952

    Do these democrats truly believe that americans are too stupid to read or hear who sponsored and paid for an ad and consider it appropriately? You either agree or disagree with the view of a candidate on the issues. It's really not that hard. Of course, I guess I am assuming that people actually pay attention to the issues.

    February 11, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  9. Drew

    Glad you are starting to kick butts. Continue and we will get something through.

    February 11, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  10. Pam from Iowa

    As far as requiring the head of any corporation running a political ad to appear in the commercial to say that he or she "approves this message", they should also require disclaimers that promote the fact that the employees of the corporation had nothing to do with the ad and the ad does not reflect the opinion of the employees!!!!

    February 11, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  11. marion/Alabama

    How about if you recieve government assistance you lose your right to vote? That one would work better and We need random drug testing for those recieveing government handouts. I do not mind my taxes being used to help the truly needy,but I don't believe they should be buying Tatoos,and drugs or Alcohol with my Tax money....

    February 11, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. Why

    Why are foreign controlled companies getting contracts or bailouts in the first place? And what would stop companies from funneling money through such organizations such as acorn and moveon disguised as donations? The obama campaign sure came up with a lot of money during the run for office from somewhere, and I doubt all of it came from the average person on the street.

    February 11, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. Leonard

    About all the abuse that Sarah has been getting from scumbags like Gibbs & others about the hand notes, doesn't the POTUS use a teleprompter when giving prepared remarks? Obtruction to any & all things Obama is in the best interest of this country.

    February 11, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  14. Bill

    The 5 judges who paved the way for corporations owning our government need to resign.

    February 11, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. TomInRochNY

    If the Rs get in the way of this they can kiss their chances in November good bye.

    February 11, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  16. Bill

    Yes, most Americans are too stupid to realize who is funding the garbage ads they see on TV. That is if the sponsor is even identified.

    February 11, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. AnonymousGuy

    So I'm reading this right, unions don't have to have their heads say "I approved this message." Would unions have to post donations within 24 hours? My personal opinion is everything they have for corporations, have for unions. That's only fair. Corporations aren't the only ones pouring millions of dollars into political campaigns, but the question is do the Democrats have the power to stand up to their benefactors.

    February 11, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  18. Sure

    Sounds like the democrats can't stand competition. Wonder what foreign countries the money flowed in from during the obama campaign? sure was a lot of it that came in quickly.

    February 11, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  19. scott oneill

    Heck we all like Sarah, what she stands for, what she's done, and who she is. That being said, she's not presidential. That voice alone would drive us all crazy. We need a good leader, no doubt, just not her. Good person though.

    February 11, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. Tim

    This will be a true test of Republican colors. Are they for the people who gathered in Nashville last week, or for their own continued campaign contributions from the wealthy elite who bankroll their television ads come election time? The choice is theirs, and then, on whether or not to rehire them, the choice is ours.

    February 11, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    What has changed? Obama took huge piles of corporate money and union money. After the court decision and this new law, people like Obama will still rake it in from corporate friends.

    This is a good law to think about but career politicians like Obama will still figure out ways around it.

    Should pass a law like this but watch the politicians snickering at us.

    February 11, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  22. Charles W. Skinner

    Wrong answer top Congressional Democrats – You have no authority to create a disfavored speaker under the Constitution. If you want to change the rules, it's time to make a constitutional amendment.

    The Congress cannot constitutionally create a class of disfavored citizen that cannot exercise rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Pres. Obama knows this (or should) as a Constitutional Law professor. So long as Corporations are classified as persons for the purposes of applying laws, Congress can no more do this than they could suspend the entire First Amendment for you or me as a person. Further, what they propose will open an interesting challenge based on 14th amendment grounds of discrimination based on national origin for directors who are non-US citizens.

    Political Speech, as stated in MANY, MANY Supreme Court decisions, is the highest (most important) form of speech, and is granted the most protection to allow for a free discourse of ideas.

    February 11, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  23. Jane/Seattle

    We already have been systematically shown/taught that we hold little personal power (Book: Surplus Powerlessness) over policies of the elites who control our societies. HOWEVER, if or when we come to realize that IT IS They Who ARE the true MINORITY. IF/When we might Come to collectively SEE and come together to understnd that we DO ultimatly HOLD the Majority POWER.

    Just Imagine if we were all to BOYCOTT most of the Big Outsourcing Stores, refue to be duped by the MSM, stop WORKing? Imagine the power we hold together to stop this aggregious Political, Activist Court Action by a set-up Court? We could cripple this system, Stop the Financial Industry, and much more for True Change. Peace

    February 11, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  24. historian

    I think the Supreme Court judges should have a 15 to 20 year serving limit. They are destroying the constitution. Any politician that is in office too long just hurts the American people, a time limit should be set. And if anyone is reading our comments suggest giving the politicians a five percent tax cut like the governors give state employees?

    February 11, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  25. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    What part of 'corporations are not citizens' do the right wingnuts not see? It is a shame that they believe that even foreign corporations can buy an election of a candidate in America.

    February 11, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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