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Bill seeks to limit corporations' campaign ad spending

WASHINGTON - A Democratic bill introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer Thursday aims to limit corporate and labor union spending this fall on political ads - newly allowed by a recent Supreme Court ruling - by requiring extensive disclosure and creating some new restrictions.

The bill would require chief executives of corporations paying for political ads to appear in them saying they "approve of this message." The measure also would mandate disclosure of all corporate and union donors to third-party groups running political ads.

And it would ban foreign-controlled corporations, as well as federal contractors and corporate recipients of federal TARP bailout money, from paying for campaign ads for or against candidates.

The legislation will be fast-tracked by Democrats ahead of the crucial midterm elections, Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, but he conceded it faces a likely legal challenge and possible GOP opposition.

"We have to move quickly because this one comes with a deadline," he said. "It's hard to see how Republicans could be against disclosure."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who co-sponsored a landmark campaign finance law, demurred Thursday, saying, "I would certainly have to look at it before I would want to sign on to any provisions."

Meredith McGehee, policy director of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, urged Congress to pass the bill, calling it "a strong counter-thrust to the damage done to our democracy" by the Supreme Court ruling.

Schumer and the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), outlined what they called the legislative framework for the Democrats' response to the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in the Citizens United case on Jan. 21 that lifted the ban on direct corporate and labor union spending for the first time in decades.

Some Republicans and business groups praised the ruling as consistent with freedom of speech. Schumer and others have blasted it as "disastrous," saying it gives companies and unions too much influence.

The bill also would:

Require the top five funders to be listed at the end of the political ad they paid for.

Require nonprofits and "527" groups to report detailed data about donations to and spending from new "political broadcast spending" accounts.

Require corporations to notify shareholders of their campaign spending on their Web sites and in SEC filings.

Allow candidates facing corporate or union ads to pay the lowest rate possible for their ads.

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