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. Pittsburgh voter

    BTW...how are the Republicans obstructing anything? Liberal Dems need to go back and study math....you have a majority and, until recently, a super majority. Do you think we are all so stupid that we buy that ridiculous argument?

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

    Right, let's only let the unions hammer us...conservative scumbags? why not make an amendment that makes contributions illegal. period. no union/no corporate interference...particularly like when Congressman Dodd suggests Congress could come to work with their sponsoring corporations on t-shirts...and his would be Senator Countrywide!!!! or President Harpo!!!! Can we get a little real

    February 11, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  3. Video Guy

    I can see it now "One Nation under Wal Mart,

    God help us

    February 11, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    Thank Alito and Roberts, our favorite Bush ideologue appointees.

    You know Bush...that same Bush who APPOINTED 7 OF HIS 9 NOMINEES FOR THE NLRB'S DURING A CONGRESSIONAL RECESS. Where was the uproar then, GOPers? Didn't you care that he was packing the NLRB with people who would sympathize with giant corporate interests over the middle-class workers?

    Go ahead everyone...use Google to find out the backgrounds of each of those people Bush appointed to the NLRB's Board and ask yourself under whose desks the GOPers are kneeling when they obstruct ONE appointment Obama wants to make whose professional experience has been defending the workers and laborers who are taking it in the rear from big business. Ask yourself that question after you read about Bush's nominees having been bigshot lawyers who represented giant corporations in labor disputes. Ask it.

    February 11, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  5. jc

    The Supreme Court with this decision has sold America to the highest bidder.

    This is a result of the republicans not being allowed to show their film during the last election "Hillary: The Movie". Their complete lack of knowledge about how to raise money from voters on the internet. So now the courts have gone back to the old ways of the GOP,let the corporations run this country and take away all the freedoms from Americans that threaten the interests of big business.

    Thanks Court, your wisdom was not Supreme in this decision.

    February 11, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. J.P.

    Yes, those eeeeeeeeeevil corporations... you know, the ones who employ millions and millions of Americans directly, and millions and millions more indirectly with their purchasing.

    All this ruling did was put businesses and corporations on an even footing with unions, and that is hardly a bad thing.

    Besides, if the congress has the power to tax businesses out of existence, then doesn't it only seem fair that the businesses should have some say in the election of those who will govern them? Anything short of that is taxation without representation, and we know how that problem played out nearly 250 years ago.

    As for this canard about "foreign" companies, that part of the statute does not apply to this ruling. This canard is bunk and even the great "constitutional scholar" himself knows it's bunk.

    As for Chuck-you Schumer saying the Supreme Court has just decided the 2010 elections... nice try, Chuck. Nice way to pre-emptively blame your losses on something totally irrelevant to WHY we're going to replace your sorry @$$e$ in November. You lost the 2010 elections when you voted for the Bailouts and Porkulus last year.

    February 11, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  7. Ben in Texas

    It's difficult for me to believe that even the most hard core right wingers would support the Extreme Court decision to allow corporations to openly buy elections. The same tea baggers who rail against bank corporation bailouts are fine with those same banking corporations spending bailout money to buy ads supporting specific lawmakers?

    The court made no distinction. Any type of corporation, headquartered and operating in any country, controlled by any foreign national can now legally spend any amount of money to elect any candidate. And they don't have to reveal who paid for the ads, what their motivation was, or what the candidate promised to do for them in return.

    Yet, there has not been a peep out of the wingnuts about this activist decision. I have to believe that the answer lies in the confidence of wingers that corporations will always support Repugnant candidates. That reveals a fanatical party loyalty among these folks, to the point of self-destruction, and overriding their duty as patriotic Americans.

    February 11, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. Albert R., L.A., CA

    Sorry but what is the difference between foreign-controlled companies and firms and American corporations whose stock is owned by foreign persons, companies and firms? There is no difference! The middle class is under attack by the global economy which is controled by global corporations. Now we know what Reagan really ment when he said. "Lets get government [law and order] off of our [big business] backs." Congrees will need to amend the constitution to make it clear that "persons" and "people," as those words appear in the constitution, mean humans only and not robots, corporations, or any other graven images.

    February 11, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. Carmen

    Since this is now decided, let's take advantage of it and tax any advertisements at 1000% of the cost of the commercial. The media companies can collect it and pass it on to the government. It's a revenue generator, and the government DOES need the revenue. Each corporation or union can then decide if it's worth spending that kind of money to promote their candidate.

    February 11, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  10. Money talks

    Hope the Dems get this done, and that Republicans join them for the sake of our country. Yes, unfortunately people *are* stupid enough not to pay attention to who funds things - just look at the teabaggers. If the same restrictions apply to all (corporations and unions) then how is that not fair?

    February 11, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  11. Leon

    Hey lets wake up. It isn't just the Supreme Court. This was written by Charlie Reese a former columnist of the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper it says it all.

    Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and
    then campaign against them.

    Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans
    are against deficits, we have deficits?

    Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against
    inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

    You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does.

    You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on
    appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

    You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

    You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

    One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme
    Court justices 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly,
    legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic
    problems that plague this country.

    I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that
    problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its
    Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally
    chartered, but private, central bank.

    I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason.

    They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a president to do one cotton-picking thing.

    I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash.

    The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

    Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that
    what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con
    regardless of party.

    What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive
    amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

    The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole
    responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and
    approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House?

    She is the leader of the majority party. She and fellow House members,
    not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president
    vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

    It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million can not
    replace 545 people who stand convicted - by present facts - of
    incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic
    problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you
    fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the
    federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they
    want to exist.

    If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

    If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

    If the Marines are in IRAQ , it's because they want them in IRAQ .

    If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement
    plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.

    There are no insoluble government problems.

    Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they
    hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and
    advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to
    regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical
    forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them
    from doing what they take an oath to do. Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

    They, and they alone, have the power.

    They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are
    their bosses provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.

    We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

    What you do with this article now that you have read it is up to you,
    though you appear to have several choices.

    1. You can send this to everyone in your address book, and hope they do something about it.

    2. You can agree to vote against everyone that is currently in office,
    knowing that the process will take several years.

    3. You can decide to run for office yourself and agree to do the job
    properly.

    4. Lastly, you can sit back and do nothing, or re-elect the current
    bunch.

    February 11, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  12. Doug - Dallas

    I suppose it's possible all five of the "supreme court" judges went senile at the same time. This ruling is wrong on so many levels. I guess they don't realize we already have this problem; it's called lobbiests and now they have even more money to spend to corrupt our lawmakers.

    February 11, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. D.U.T.C.H.

    I would like to see a Senate inquiry done on what drove the Supreme Court to this radical decision.

    February 11, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. SMG

    Once again, the retardican party (their activist judges) sells out our country to corporations... and once again, brain-dead retardicans blindly march in step.

    You would think that people who claim to be for small government, small taxes, individual rights would be raising cane over this...especially the idea of foreign companies getting involved in American elections. I guess expecting intelligent reasoning and common sense from retardicans is just too much.

    February 11, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  15. Vic of New York

    If it takes a new Amendment do it!

    It's shameless, and even those so-called "individual rights" people from the Conservative Right, Tea Party and Independents would be amiss not to call that Activist Right-Wing "Supreme" Court a pack of hippocrits.

    Really, Corporations should be considered as having the same rights as citizens? Who to you read Miranda Rights to when you indict a Pharmaceutical for distributing tainted drugs?

    February 11, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  16. Socialism...keeping police/fire stations, roads, justice system and the military out of the hands of Capitalists

    It may very well be that the Supreme Court's decision was the proper interpretation of the law. However, this effectively makes our government a publicly traded stock. Anyone, or any corporation, holding a U.S. Dollar has one share. While I'm all for free speech. I really don't like the idea of a small group, be it individuals or corporations, being able to out weigh all other simply by the fact they have more money. And it's safe to say that this small group would be pushing things to favor their own vested interests.

    February 11, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  17. Joe MN

    Leonard: The problem wasn't using notes during the "prepared speech" – it was having to write notes in order to "take questions" from the audience – it was obvious that they were pre-planned, and even then, she didn't have the ability to answer them without notes.

    Go ahead and compare that to Obama who hands mic's out to random audience members and answers their questions – they are not preplanned, planeted, and he does not need cheat sheets or teleprompters to answer them.

    February 11, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  18. Carole

    Justice Alito (Bush Appointee) = Joe 'You Lie' Wilson

    February 11, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  19. Bruce

    It's bad enough that one republican't voter cancels out my vote...now this!!!! Has anyone ever noticed that when a minority starts winning the game, the rules change...golf, tennis, hockey, politics, TV evangelists...you get the picture!

    February 11, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  20. Carole

    @ Tram.......I agree that this is their 2nd worse ruling after them electing George Dufus Bush to the presidency. See what that got us! Dufus Bush inherits a surplus and leaves a surplus, financial ruin, war and innocents dead.

    The Bush family must be so proud.

    February 11, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. ConsiderThis-FL

    The US Government has always been for sale, is currently for sale and will always be for sale. It's the American way. Everything can be bought for the right price in America. The Supreme Court's ruling just makes corruption legal; that's all. We The People have no power in this country.

    February 11, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  22. Albert R., L.A., CA

    Hey, under this Court opinion, could a corporation bribe (i.e., “corporate political speaking” as the Court caslls it) someone to resign from office, or withdraw from a political campaign, thus making the bribe nothing more than personal enrichment (you know what I mean, “Hey, were just ‘talkin’ here.”) of the recipient, the same way as any stimulating “conversation” between one person and another enriches both, and therefore not be subject to reporting the payment as either campaign financing or personal income but only on the corporations balance sheet under the accounts payable column as “Confidential political communication ,“Speaking our mind?”

    Also, since corporations can now engage in activities far beyond those listed in the limited engraved charter that created them, and have “opinions” which can be “expressed,” can these "fictitious persons" also argue that their constitutionally protected corporate opinion, “money is God,” qualifies them for tax exempt status as a church?

    February 11, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  23. Bob in Pa

    Amazing how much the Democrats truely hate free speech.

    February 11, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  24. Jerry

    I think that there is a much simpler solution, any political campaign support from a company must be approved by a vote of the shareholders or by a vote of the members if it is a union prior to any funds being spent. This way you are seeing the will of the owners and members and not just the will of the few at the top which are getting to bypass the controls that apply to them as an individual citizen.

    This would also solve the problem of creating a class of disfavored citizens and would limit the impact of individuals that happen to be the head of a company or union.

    February 11, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  25. KellyC

    I can see that a lot of you don't realize how the system works already. Do you know what a PAC is? The justices aren't the idiots you believe they are; they are just protecting speech as we have for 200 years (and reversing poor decisions made 100 years ago).

    Somehow many of you seem to think that just *corporations* are the ones who are given more freedom. What about unions? They spend more money on lobbying/PACs than most of their members realize and mostly on things that have no direct effect on their actual union. They've become political machines in their own right. Don't blame the GOP for they fact that you've been duped by the UAW/SEUI/et.al.

    February 11, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
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