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. brains

    Ronald McDonald / Chevron 2012

    February 11, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Ben

    Tram – "This ruling was every bit as bad as the Imminent Domain ruling the Supreme Court came down with."

    Uh, I hate to break this to you, but it's Eminent, not Imminent. At least try to get the spelling right before you post your inane drivel.

    February 11, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. Mike

    Why are Democrats afraid of a fair playing field?

    February 11, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Duh, and it only took several trillion of our dollars to do it. These Obamans are absoutley stupendous. There is no problem they cannot solve and take credit for solving if they can squeeze enough money out of taxpayers. I heard Obozo is even taking credit for winning in Iraq although he is following the Bush plan which he voted and campaigned against. What an incompetent bunch of idiots George Soros and SEIU/ACORN put in as a seat warmer in the White House.

    February 11, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. jules sand-perkins

    Democrats can challenge this decision all they like.
    Even if they got this ruling, nothing can change the opposition to Democrats caused by President Obama's administration in time for his political party to recover by the 2010 and 2012 elections.

    February 11, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. Kerzell

    This law should've never been overturned. When you think about it – who has more money than the porn industry? Those are the ones who will be making the decisions and running our country.

    Thanks GOP

    February 11, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. redleg

    How about a 50 state and all teritories, including DC movement to statutorily ban political expenditures by corporations as part of corporations law? There is NO federal constitutional right to incorporate and NO reason for such a ban not to stand as defining the limits of a corporation under a state's sovereign law. Simply define political expenditures as ultra vires by definition and simultaneously define "doing business" in a state to include political spending or activity the same as opening a store. Specifically allow shareholder suitsagainst the entity and the individuals responsible with the corporation paying legal expenses as well. Do not allow political (vs lobbying) expenses as a tax deduction.

    February 11, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  8. Elle in WA

    Glad to see something getting done about this. Absolutely ridiculous that the Supreme Courte made such an idiotic decision, and I was thrilled to see the President call them out at the State of the Union Address.

    It's obvious these days that all it takes is money to "buy" a seat in government, and the high court's decision to allow unlimited funds from corporations to support a campaign will allow their chosen candidate to win. It's almost out of a fiction Grisham novel.

    February 11, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. BillG

    I guess the Teabaggers are just fine with Foreign corporations and foreign countries now legally able to put billions of dollars into influencing US elections.
    The teaparty silence on this issue IS DEAFENING. Why aren't they taking to the streets over this? I'll tell you why – the Tea party movement is bogus, it is funded by corporate interests and the GOP, and only purpose is to represent the interests of the Republican party. GOP protects corporate interests EVERY time over the protection of the people. Teapartiers WAKE UP, you are being used.

    February 11, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  10. talanhugh

    The SC will strike it down, again. You cannot screw with free speech people, money buys you a bigger megaphone, live with it.

    February 11, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  11. donttreadonme

    So it is ok for Obama to accept corporate money to run his own adds but not ok for a company to run their own adds? Are dems really this stupid? It is ok for special interest groups such as moveon.org and Accorn to run adds but not a company like say Sears. Since when is it the Federal Governments right to tell private companies what they can and can’t say...... is this not America.

    Lastly who funded Obama’s campaign???

    Goldman Sachs $474,428 Ubs Ag $298,180 JP Morgan Chase & Co $282,387 Lehman Brothers $274,147 National Amusements Inc $265,750 Sidley Austin LLP $251,657 Citigroup Inc $247,436 University of California $239,944 Skadden, Arps et al $228,520 Exelon Corp $226,661 Harvard University $225,891 Jones Day $213,825 Google Inc $192,808 Time Warner $190,091 Morgan Stanley $190,026 Citadel Investment Group $173,950 Kirkland & Ellis $163,126 Latham & Watkins $160,842 WilmerHale LLP $155,788 Jenner & Block $151,447

    February 11, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  12. RTB

    What blatant anti-citizen scumbags these conservative judges are.

    How about legislation banning the supreme court ruling?

    After all it is Congress that LEGISLATES and the supreme court enforces the rule of law.

    February 11, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  13. Ben

    TomInRochNY – You don't get it, do you? The Repubs are gonna pick up a bunch of seats in November regardless of what happens between now and then. It's just a question of how many.

    February 11, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. Barbara Independent in NY

    When Congress was questioning Judge Roberts during the confirmation hearings, didn't he say that it was not the job of the Supreme court to overturn existing laws? Didn't he say that the court should just make a ruling on the case they were hearing? I guess it was some other John Roberts.

    February 11, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. Felonious Monk

    The supreme court sold America...

    February 11, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  16. Voice of Reason

    OK – so it's a step in the right direction, but why oh why oh why do we let corporations have anything to do with elections AT ALL?

    I know i'm being naive – Money really CAN buy anything in the government, but cant i wallow in my idealism for a while?

    Imagine candidates who run because they want to make things better, not line their own pockets. Imagine our country digging out of this recession based on the strength of the American people, not being beaten back down by wealthy corporate interests that couldn't give a rip about individuals.

    OK – Reality check: The election goes to the highest bidder, and congress works for Wall Street. >sigh<

    February 11, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  17. Lori in St Pete

    I like your thinking marion/Alabama! There's a lot of AFDC (Aid for Dependent Corporations) that would be withheld if CEOs were drug tested. Further, your suggestion would also negate the supremes' supreme mistake!

    February 11, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  18. rose

    Question: If an individual can only give a limited amount in campaign contributions why is it that if corporations are considered persons they are allowed unlimited contributions?

    If they are a "person" shouldn't their contributions be limited just as mine are?

    February 11, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  19. Albert R., L.A., CA

    We have words to describe people who aid foreign entities to influence our lawmaking and elections with unlimited cash bribes; traitor, conspirator, defector. It should make no difference when the agents are Supreme Court Justices acting under color of authority to commit that same national security high crime. Congress should impeach those five Global corporate sympathizers. Imagine, as Congress debates whether gay and lesbian human beings can defend their human rights openly on the battlefield against our foreign enemies, our Supreme Court grants human rights to foreign fictitious entities (who will never volunteer for military service) to interfere with our elections and lawmaking. To grant a “fictitious person" (as the Court calls “Corporations”) human rights is the same as making a Golden Calf who will “speak” with bundles of cash to Congressional global corporate loyalist who bow down to it. This is the true legacy of Reagan, H.W. Bush and W. Bush, who selected these traitors to infiltrate the Court.

    February 11, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  20. demo

    Some of these responses would be funny if they weren't so identifying of the the liberal bias. STOP BIG BUSINESS but DON'T MESS WITH UNIONS. All of you calling for the 5 Justices to resign, it just proves the liberal way of thinking....If you don't agree with me, you need to quit. What a bunch of IDIOTS! Don't talk to me about destroying the constitution....MANDATORY HEALTH CARE, FIRING PRIVATE BUSINESS LEADERS, CLANDESTINE HEALTH CARE MEETINGS WITH UNIONS..... and the list goes on.

    February 11, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  21. rose

    Unions contributions pale in comparison to what corporations donate. Unions represent workers and guess what I'm a worker!

    February 11, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  22. Wisconsonite - Vote for Consumer Protection Regulation of the Financial Industry

    Now let's start counting heads . . . heads of the Partiers of NO who will do everything they can to block this legislation!

    February 11, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. Mark

    Michelle Berry runs a day-care business out of her home in Flint, MI. She thought that she owned her own business, but Berry's been told she is now a government employee and union member. It's not voluntary. Suddenly, Berry and 40,000 other Michigan private day-care providers have learned that union dues are being taken out of the child-care subsidies the state sends them. The "union" is a creation of AFSCME, the government workers union, and the United Auto Workers.

    This racket means big money to AFSCME, which runs the union, writes the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank.

    Today the Department of Human Services siphons about $3.7 million in annual dues to the union….

    The money should be going to home-based day-care providers — themselves not on the high end of the income scale. Ms. Berry now sees money once paid to her go to a union that does little for her…

    February 11, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. Pittsburgh voter

    Will you also limit campaign spending by unions? What makes them any different than a corporation?

    February 11, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. Wisconsonite - Vote for Consumer Protection Regulation of the Financial Industry

    To: Mike1952 February 11th, 2010 12:33 pm ET

    "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? "

    Well, Mike1952, you're obviously too stupid to understand how important it is to stop corporations from BUYING our elected officials more than they already do . . . . so how about if you answer you're own question!

    February 11, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
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