Campaign disclosure bill moves to House

By John O'Brien | May 21, 2010


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - President Barack Obama is happy legislation is moving forward that would strengthen current disclosure requirements by businesses spending on campaigns.

The DISCLOSE Act moved out of the House Administration Committee Thursday and will now be considered by the full House of Representatives. The bill is a response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision from earlier this year that held corporations can spend their money on campaign support.

The Citizens United decision was criticized by Obama during his State of the Union address but also said corporations could not donate directly to candidates' campaign funds.

Obama says the bill "would shine an unprecedented light on corporate spending in political campaigns so that the American people can clearly see who is trying to influence campaigns for public office."

The case involved Citizens United, a conservative group that was told by the Federal Elections Commission that it could not provide its documentary about then-Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to cable stations.

"Some members of the public might consider Hillary to be insightful and instructive; some might find it to beneither high art nor a fair discussion on how to set the Nation's course; still others simply might suspend judgment on these points but decide to think more about issuesand candidates," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

"Those choices and assessments, however, are not for the Government to make."

Critics of the decision claim it "opened the floodgates" for corporate spending on elections.

The bill was introduced in February by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. It would ban expenditures from foreign interests, federal contractors and recipients of Troubled Asset Relief Program funds.

It would require CEOs to appear on their companies' ads to say they approve the message and "top corporate donors" to appear in ads they funded for other groups.

The bill would also affect the cost of advertising for candidates and require groups running ads to include a database of spending on their Web sites.

"If a corporation buys airtime to run ads on broadcast, cable, or satellite television that support or oppose a candidate, then that candidate and political party or political party committee is allowed to receive the lowest unit rate for that media market," a summary of the bill says.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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