Schumer/Van Hollen Response to Citizens United

by Amanda Adams*, 2/12/2010

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) announced a summary, presented as a "framework," of the legislation they plan to introduce to curtail the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Their extensive response includes a ban on expenditures by foreign interests, as well as corporations that have federal contracts and those that received funds through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Corporations also include 501(c)(4), (c)(5), and (c)(6) organizations. They call for new disclosure rules on corporate spending, both to the government and to shareholders.

Specific provisions in the Schumer-Van Hollen proposal include :

  • Prohibiting corporations from spending money on U.S. elections if they have a foreign ownership of 20% or more, a majority of their board of directors is foreign principals, or their U.S. operations are under the control of a foreign entity.
  • Banning government contractors from making political expenditures, including TARP recipients.
  • Requiring CEOs to appear on camera in political ads to say they "approve this message."
  • Corporations that want to spend money on campaign related ads would have to set up separate "political broadcast spending" accounts. All funds spent or transferred from the accounts must be publicly reported to the Federal Election Commission.
  • All political expenditures made by a corporation have to be disclosed within 24 hours on its website, and disclosed to shareholders in quarterly reports and in the corporation's annual report.
  • Requiring federally registered lobbyists to disclose information on all campaign expenditures over $1,000.
  • Banning coordination between a corporation and candidates on ads referencing Congressional candidates within 90 days of the primary through the general election. For all federal elections, at any time, coordination would be prohibited when the ads promote, support, attack or oppose a candidate.

According to CQ, during a press event, Schumer "pledged that the disclosure proposals in the bill will expose corporate and union financiers using pass-through political organizations and 'AstroTurf' lobbying outfits to obscure their political outlays. 'We will drill down so that the ultimate funder of the expenditure is disclosed,' he said." Reportedly Schumer and Van Hollen will introduce their legislation the week after the Presidents Day recess.

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