From NBC's Joel Seidman
Today's a big day for those following the ups and downs of campaign-finance regulations. Democrats unveiled proposals pushing back on the Supreme Court's January ruling -- in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission -- that allows a more active campaign role for corporations and unions.
You'll remember that President Obama in his State of the Union address took issue with the court's ruling. With six justices seated in front of him in the House chamber the president said, "With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections."
Today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters at a news conference on the steps of the Supreme Court that the court's decision was "terrible, one of the worst decisions that has come along in the Supreme Court, I think in its history." Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) propose nearly identical attempts to limit the impact of the court's decision.
Schumer vowed the proposal will have bipartisan support but said that as of now no Republican has come forward to co-sponsor the legislation. He said of his colleagues across the aisle, "A good number have told us that they are very favorably disposed to the legislation."
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that the new measure would limit free speech: "The campaign finance bill introduced this morning is not about reform, transparency, accountability or good government. It is about election advantage -- plain and simple. An effort to disregard the First Amendment and defy the Supreme Court in order to limit the speech of those who may disagree with you is an effort that has no place in this country."
Schumer said his campaign-finance proposal "levels the playing field so special interests do not drown out the voice of the average voter."
He said the goal is "to enact this measure in time to limit fallout from the court's decisions on the 2010 elections." And Schumer said he hoped to have the measure n the Senate floor before July 4th.
Core provisions of the new legislation establish new transparency and accountability requirements for corporations and unions that make expenditures in federal elections.
Details from Schumer's summary of the bill:
- Improved disclaimer requirements on campaign ads
Requires the CEO of a corporation or head of any other covered organization to personally appear in the organization's independent expenditure or electioneering communication TV ads and take responsibility for the ad by stating that the corporation or other organization approves the message.
- Improved limitations on government contractors
Contractors who have contracts with a value of $50,000 or more are prohibited from making independent expenditures or electioneering communications in federal elections. The same restrictions apply to recipients of TARP funds until such funds have been paid back.
- Expanded restrictions of foreign nationals
Expands the existing definition of a foreign national to include a U.S. corporation in which a foreign national directly or indirectly owns 20 percent or more of the voting shares of the domestic corporation; a U.S. corporation in which foreign nationals constitute a majority of the board of directors; or a U.S. corporation in which one or more foreign nationals have the power to control the decision-making process of the company with respect to the company's interests in the U.S. or its activities in connection with U.S. elections.
- Strengthen rules on coordination
The legislation strengthens and codifies existing FEC regulations that define "coordination." Under the legislation, a public communication is subject to the coordination test if it refers to a presidential candidate during the period beginning 120 days prior to the earliest primary through the general election, and if it refers to a congressional candidate during the period beginning 90 days before the candidate's primary through the general election.
- Improved disclosure by lobbying organizations
The legislation requires any lobbyist or lobbying organization that files periodic reports under the Lobbying Disclosure Act to include in those reports a list of independent expenditures or electioneering communications made by the lobbyist or lobbying organization of $1,000 or more, and the name of each candidate supported or opposed by the expenditure, if applicable.
- Strengthens lowest unit rate provisions
The legislation strengthens existing law regarding "lowest unit rate" requirements by requiring a broadcaster to provide reasonable amounts of "non-preemptible" time at lowest unit rates to candidates and parties so that they have reasonable access to lowest unit rates during the more desired parts of the broadcast schedule.