WASHINGTON House and Senate Democrats struck back yesterday at the Supreme Court’s decision to let corporations and unions sponsor political campaign ads, calling for tighter restrictions and more disclosure about who’s buying the spots ahead of this fall’s midterm elections.
Recipients of federal bailout money, government contractors and foreign corporations would be banned from making such campaign expenditures. CEOs of other companies paying for political ads would also have to say in each spot that he or she approved under the Democrats’ proposal.
It was the first concrete response to last month’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, seen as vastly increasing the power of corporations and unions to influence federal elections and government decisions. The action freed companies and unions to spend their millions directly to sway elections for president and Congress.
Democrats contend Republicans stand to benefit most from the court’s decision and that change is needed quickly. “Otherwise, the Supreme Court will have predetermined the winners of next November’s election,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “It won’t be Republicans, it won’t be Democrats. It’ll be corporate America.”
The justices’ Jan. 21 ruling held that the First Amendment allows corporations and unions to spend money on political campaigns without having to form political action committees and abide by fundraising limit.
That drew a complaint from President Barack Obama, who said in his State of the Union address that the ruling “reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our elections.”
Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said leaders of Congress’ Democratic majority want to put planned legislation on a fast track for votes. Van Hollen chairs the House Democrats’ election campaign operation this year. Schumer chaired the Senate Democrats’ campaign operation in 2006 and 2008, when the party won back control of the Senate and then expanded its majority.