Congressional Democrats yesterday unveiled the framework of their upcoming legislative response to the recent and controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which lifted the long-time ban on corporations' independent spending in federal elections. As outlined, the forthcoming legislation would:
- Ban federal election expenditures by any "foreign corporation," defined as an entity (1) with foreign ownership of 20 percent or more; or (2) whose Board majority is comprised of non-U.S. citizens; or (3) whose U.S. operations, or "decision-making with respect to political activities," is directed or controlled by a foreign entity. This provision could prevent some foreign corporations' U.S. subsidiaries from establishing political action committees, an activity permitted in the past.
- Require a CEO to appear on camera in all corporate-sponsored, election advertisements to state that he or she "approves this message," much like candidates must do now.
- Compel for-profit and non-profit corporations to conduct all candidate-specific advertising through "political activities accounts" registered with the Federal Election Commission and regularly disclose the accounts' donors and expenditures, similar to what FEC-regulated PACs disclose currently.
- Mandate the disclosure of an organization's top contributors at the end of all ads sponsored by that organization.
- Restrict political expenditures by federal government contractors and TARP recipients.
- Impose new political-expenditure reporting requirements for all Lobbying Disclosure Act registrants.
- Require corporations to disclose all political expenditures to shareholders on a regular basis and to the public on a corporate Web site within 24 hours.
- Bolster existing rules that limit "coordination" of advertising efforts with federal campaigns.
Specific legislative language has not yet been released. The legislation's principal sponsors, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), plan to introduce a bill during the week of February 22nd. Messrs. Schumer and Van Hollen promise to move their reforms "expeditiously" through Congress, so that they take effect before the 2010 general election.