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. Steve (the real one)

    historian February 11th, 2010 12:44 pm ET
    I think the Supreme Court judges should have a 15 to 20 year serving limit. They are destroying the constitution
    ---------------------
    Sorry, Life time appointments ARE consttitutional. How does one destroy the Constitution by FOLLOWING it??

    February 11, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. Sooooo-what's NEW

    I believe ALL campaign contributions over a $1,000 SHOULD BE
    REQUIRED TO BE MADE PUBLIC, REGARDLESS of whether they
    come from Individuals, Corporate, Governments or Lobbyists.
    Elections in this country are CORRUPT, they are MANIPULATED and
    EVERY SINGLE POLITICIAN plays the "MONEY GAME" to get elected.
    WE NEED term limits, NEED TO REDUCE salaries, benefits and the
    budgets (wasteful spending of personal trips and favors for ALL of the
    politicians). Dem or Reb, Independent or Green party, Tea party or
    ANY organized party will ALWAYS end the same. It's time to break the
    "political party concept" and begin electing those persons who will do
    what is right for the people and the country REGARDLESS of party
    affiliation. ALL, let me repeat, ALL politicians are corrupt to a point,
    many worse than others, but until we get POLITICS out of our system,
    NOTHING....REPEAT.... NOTHING WILL CHANGE!!!! THIS COPUNTRY
    IS IN ONE OF IT'S WORST TIMES IN IT'S HISTORY, and the political
    struggles and their "greed and need for party power" is killing us.
    Terrorists SHOULD NOT be our greatest fear, It's our OWN corrupt
    GOVERNMENT AND THE POLITICAL SYSTEM THAT THREATENS
    OUR VERY EXISITENCE AND FUTURE. WAKE UP WASHINGTON......
    YOU ARE THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SOLUTION !!!!! Please VOTE
    EVERY INCUMBANT OUT of office THIS YEAR AND THE NEXT AND
    LET'S SEE WHAT HAPPENS. CAREER politicians are ruining our
    lives, freedoms and the country.

    February 11, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. Jane/Seattle

    Current "Conservative" (Neocon) Thought:
    1. Kill Unions – the only representation workers hold
    2. Save the babies now, killl the soldiers later! Let them all rot in the poverty our brand of Competition holds for the poor!
    3. ACORN did it all, but just ignore the Republican manipulations of the 2000 and 2004 Voting machine and other illegal actions
    4. Talk about Main Street for Votes, But Bailout the frauds who "Socialize" losses and Privatize Profits!
    5. Never regulate those who engage in UNFAIR Competition
    6. Never COOPERATE (PRODUCTIVE ACTION FOR SOCIETIES)
    7. Lie, Lie, Lie and it will eventually become truth for the Ignore-Ant!
    8. Worship at the altars of the Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, Free-Market School of Chicago Economics!
    9. Go On Meet the Press and other shows to beat the same thoughts into the minds of the Ignore-ant haters
    10. Oh, And use subtle and not so subtle Racism to attack anyone who could begin to threaten your CONTROL, LIES, POWER and Etc.!

    February 11, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    The Fox (democrats) have promised to guard the hen house (we the people). Niether of these two parties democrat or republican want to change this ruling and end their money gravy train from the special interst groups.

    February 11, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. GOP = "I hoe he fails"

    Come on Republicans, take off your partisan blinders. Even you should be against this ruling. If foriegn companies are allowed to influence our elections, why not let citizens of foriegn countries vote in our elections?

    February 11, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Lorelord

    CNN....just change your "Ticker" label to "Palin". I mean seriously, you people post her if she blows her freaking nose and its getting annoying. She appears every week almost and sometimes more than once in your "Ticker" section. Its getting to be borderline pathetic.

    February 11, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. OldUncleTom

    This "SunShine" will go a long way to mitigate the potential negative effects of the controversial SC decision.

    I do have to wonder, where this will leave News Corp? Their second largest shareholder (I hear) is the Saudi Royal Family, and their Chairman is a foreigner also.

    February 11, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. proud mother and sister of a soldier

    The lack of decorum among the democrats is disgusting. For a sitting president to speak as he did to the Supreme Court Justices as well as demean a past president shows a lack of control by a man who must be in control and he lacks class/professionalism. He will attack anything that does not agree with him and being the eloquent speaker he is, convince the uneducated voter that his way is to benefit this country. I am an independent thinker, reader and cannot outright buy into his agenda. I am just most disappointed by the childish democrats behavior both the politicians or the greedy, "I want it free" citizens of this country.

    February 11, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  9. Aspen Professor

    Hopefully that Bill would put a crimp in the right-wing extremist sails!

    February 11, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. Fed Up

    How about banning our stimulus funds from going overseas? Oops, that's a big no no because they contribute to our elections. Pay backs.

    February 11, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. nomorepoliticsplease

    some of you are missing the point. this is not about plain old campaign contributions, this is about running ADS......you know, those completely super annoying telivision spots that make everyone want to shut down their tv's during election season..........yes, some brain dead people DO pay attention to those........AND believe every word.

    February 11, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  12. SocialismBad

    Why do liberals have such a problem with FREE SPEECH??? Oh yeah... It's because it is only THEIR free speech that they think matters!!

    So will the Democrats target their buddies the unions with this legislation or will they give them a free ride like they did with healthcare?

    Dirty stinking politics at its WORSE.

    February 11, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    @marion/Alabama: "How about if you recieve government assistance you lose your right to vote?"

    Excellent idea! The Democrats promote a process of encouraging people to vote for them in exchange for ever more "free" things; the Republicans seem to buy support in exchange for considerations that promote Big Business. Neither is good for the economy or for the taxpayers.

    February 11, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  14. cindy

    Sarah, I admire your dedication to nursing your small child, regardless of where you happened to be at the time. However, I also think that what a high needs child needs most is his mommy.

    It isn't the responsiblity of your other children to look after him. In fact, having them do so may cause them irreperable harm. Of course, I'm not saying they shouldn't help out, as my teenagers did with my littlest one. But YOU are the most important person in his life.

    Ask anyone who has served in the manner you are considering (Presidency) and I'm certain if they were really dedicated, their families suffered there abscense and mental occupation from the job that is of the utmost importance. Then ask the question "Do I really want to be away from my baby for long periods of time every day? Maybe even multiple days at a time?"

    From your behavior, I'd say you have already made that choisce. I'ts okay to sacrifice your life for public office, but not a baby. Kids really should have mom for the 1st 2 years of life. Afther that moms should have a fairly regular schedule with their children, some of us can't be with our kids as much as we'd like, but if you can afford to stay how me with him, you really should.

    I really hope you can re-prioritize at least for the sake of your child. I know you think yourself a great leader, most iof us do not agree with you. While being president of this Great country is extremely important. there still is no job on the entire planet more important than that of bing a parent.

    While I wish the rhetoric you espouse to disappear, I wish you a happy life and a good birthday.

    February 11, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  15. Ben

    What the mainstream media also hasn't mentioned is that the Campaign Legal Center, a liberal campaign “reform” group, called the 8-1 ruling upholding disclosure provisions a “silver lining” in the suit’s outcome. Only Judge Clarence Thomas dissented from the near-unanimous decision. The Supreme Court decision claims that disclosing the names of contributors to political campaigns and causes would not “prevent anyone from speaking.” But then the court notes that in cases where a “reasonable probability” of “threats, harassment or reprisals from either Government officials or private parties” exists, exemptions can be granted.
    This is ridiculous, people who actually want to say something against these corporations have always been subdued.

    February 11, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  16. Terry from West Texas

    Charles W. Skinner foolishly wrote: "You have no authority to create a disfavored speaker under the Constitution."

    No rational human being mistakes money for speech. If someone in the supermarket line drops a dollar, I do not hand it to him and tell him he dropped a verb. If he drops a five dollar bill, I do not tell him that a participle has dangled from his wallet. Speech is generated by human beings with brains and lungs and hearts. Next, the five partisan hacks on the SC will be telling us that bullets are speech according to the Second Amendment and that corporations have a right to shoot customers who pay late. It makes as much sense. And, Conservatives would support it.

    No rational human being mistakes a corporation for a person. Again, brain, lungs, and heart are required in the definition of person. A corporation is a piece of paper in a file cabinet in Delaware or Bimini.

    February 11, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. Phugitall

    Sure February 11th, 2010 12:40 pm ET

    Sounds like the democrats can't stand competition

    Yeah, that is why all of the conservative justices voted for this, and the liberal judges voted against it. Buy a clue

    February 11, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  18. Marc

    Back in the middle of the XIX Century the SCOTUS issued a ruling (which name I forgot) that was so bad, but SO BAD, that it demanded an Ammendment to the Constitution and a couple of rulings to be overturned completely.
    It denied any son or daughter of a foreigner that was born in the USA the US citizenship. So neither Obama could be nor Kennedy nor Eisenhower could have been POTUS, if said ruling wasn't overturned.
    Birthers might known what I am talking about, since some of them used this long overturned ruling as one of their 'proofs' that President Obama 'is not an US citizen'...
    Sometimes the SCOTUS issue good rulings, sometimes they issue horrible ones. But there are mechanisms to overturn 'bad rulings', and if the Democrats wants to try to use them to counter that last one, IT'S THEIR RIGHT!!!!

    February 11, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  19. Slave labor toyotas are great,hahaha

    Maybe its time the left start their own tea party and go after the corporate fascists head on.

    February 11, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  20. Liz

    Way to go, Dems!!! of course, the rethuglicans will try to stop it because they're perfectly fine with anything that sabotages democracy. they don't want to govern, they want to RULE! and if folks want to preserve our democracy, the best way is to vote out all the rethuglicans before it's too late and we lose our right to vote.

    February 11, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  21. GOP Hypocrites

    Funny isn't it-they are only called activist judges if they are liberal

    February 11, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  22. WDM

    A ruling by SCOTUS that is designed to put an end to our democracy. A ruling brought to us by essentially the same court that turned their backs on the constitution to bring us 8 years of Bush. This is the most ACTIVIST court the US has ever had!

    February 11, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. Ben

    If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge – The Repubs haven't destroyed anything. It's failed Liberal Democrat policies that have set this country back 40 years at least. When are you and your Lib friends gonna accept a modecum of responsibility for the mess this country's in? I know, that would be the adult thing to do.

    February 11, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    @Charles W. Skinner: "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."

    That classification isn't a Constitutional one. I haven't a clue as to the origin of the concept of the "corporate individual," but changing it is a matter of law and/or precedent and doesn't require a change to the Constitution. With regard to the Federal classification, I suspect that changing it is a "simple" matter of changing the US Code–something Congress does, indirectly, all the time.

    February 11, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. Angie in PA

    Once again Republicans prove they are not for the people but for corporate America

    February 11, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
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