On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a landmark decision impacting the political activities of corporations, unions, and non-profit organizations. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court overturned the ban on unlimited independent expenditures made by such organizations in connection with a federal election, but upheld the disclosure requirements regarding such expenditures. This decision paves the way for expanded corporate and union political participation in the November 2010 midterm elections.

Hailed by some observers as a victory for free speech, while assailed by others as judicial activism that will open the floodgates for corporate political advertisement, Citizens United has sparked a firestorm of debate and controversy, most notably, President Obama’s public admonishment of the Supreme Court during the State of the Union address. Since the January 21 decision, members of Congress have pledged to act quickly to mitigate the impact of the decision, or even overturn it altogether. Dozens of bills have been introduced to modify the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), and the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), with more legislation expected in the coming weeks. These bills address issues such as foreign corporate influence, enhanced disclosure and disclaimers, and shareholder rights.

The following offers a review of the range of bills that have been introduced, including three constitutional amendments, that respond to the landmark Citizens United decision.

Multiple bills would restrict the Citizens United decision based on a corporation’s foreign ownership or control. What constitutes “foreign” is defined broadly by some bills, while more narrowly tailored by others. Some bills also would restrict political activity by other corporate actors, such as government contractors or TARP recipients.

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While the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of disclosure requirements, legislation would enhance the disclosure requirements for corporations that participate in elections. Enhanced disclosure generally refers to FEC filings, but is also extended to the disclaimers that must accompany political advertisements and even to the nation’s securities laws.

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One method of restricting the ability of executives to spend corporate dollars on elections is to require shareholder approval before making such expenditures, a method that is at the core of several bills. The process of gaining shareholder approval would necessarily delay, and possibly deter, corporations from making election-related expenditures.

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The outcome of any legislative attempt to mitigate the Citizens United ruling is unclear. What is clear, however, is that Congress will need to move forward in the near term if it is to enact legislation that will alter the impact of Citizens United on the November elections. Senate Leaders have suggested that legislation addressing the Citizens United case may see action in the Senate before the next recess period, with particular emphasis on legislation that focuses on foreign corporations. In addition, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) plans to initiate a public rulemaking to implement the Citizens United decision. FEC rulemaking documents may be released in the coming weeks.