Memo Released on Citizens United Bill

After much hullabaloo, more details have been revealed about Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Chris Van Hollen's (D-MD) legislative response to counter the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. Even though it has not been formally introduced, a memo has been disclosed outlining the bill. It will reportedly be titled the DISCLOSE Act, which stands for "Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections."

The bill will cover all corporations, including 501(c)(4), (c)(5), and (c)(6) nonprofits and 527 groups. It would require chief executives or group leaders to "stand by the ad" and say they "approve this message." In addition, the top five contributors would have to be listed on screen or in the radio ad. It would also prohibit any political ads from a company that has 20 percent foreign voting shares, a majority of foreign directors or if a foreign national controls U.S. operations of foreign-based corporations. According to the Washington Post, this would impact companies such as Budweiser and T-Mobile.

Corporations that receive federal contracts worth more than $50,000 would not be allowed to spend money to influence federal elections. Those who received funding under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and have not paid back the government funds, are also banned from political spending.

Any organization that funds political ads would have to disclose within 24 hours its campaign activity to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Organizations would also have the option to create separate accounts for campaign expenditures and disclose only donors who have given $1,000 or more and agreed to fund the messages.

Political activity would also have to be disclosed to shareholders and members in annual and periodic reports. For more detail, see the memo, or wait for the bill to eventually be introduced.

Many have criticized the work of Schumer and Van Hollen has far too extreme and will only further efforts by some to declare an infringement upon First Amendment rights. Some of the provisions may be ripe for future court challenges.

Reportedly, the Democratic talking points say, "We hope that people on both sides of the aisle can agree that Americans have a right to know who is spending money on elections."

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