Schumer, Van Hollen Vow Fast Action on Campaign Finance Bill

Posted February 11, 2010 at 1:09pm

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) will introduce their legislative counterpunch to the Supreme Court’s recent decision on corporate campaign spending the week after the Presidents Day recess, the Democratic lawmakers confirmed on Thursday.

“We will let it bake over the next week and a half and get people’s comments and opinions and have legislation ready to go when we get back,” Schumer said on a Thursday conference call. “We have to move quickly because unlike most bills that move through Congress, this one comes with a deadline of action — if we don’t act quickly, the court’s opinion will have an immediate and disastrous impact on the 2010 elections.”

Exact details of the new proposal were unavailable Thursday afternoon, but the legislation will attempt to ban foreign companies with United States-based operations, federal contractors and recipients of 2008’s Troubled Asset Relief Program from buying political ads with company money. The bill also is expected to bulk up disclosure requirements and require “stand-by-your ad” disclaimers that now apply to candidates and political committees.

“We do not want foreign interests spending money,” Van Hollen said. “We want to make sure they can’t dump millions of dollars to influence the outcome of an election to serve foreign interests, as opposed to serving America’s interests.”

Schumer, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman last cycle, also 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,” Schumer said.

Schumer and Van Hollen’s Thursday press event comes one month after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The high court’s ruling threw out most restrictions on the purchase of political advertising by corporations, unions and nonprofit organizations.

The 5-4 decision was hailed by Republican Members and outside conservative groups as a victory for free speech. Echoing the sentiments of many Democrats and liberal interest groups in recent weeks, Schumer bashed the Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Thursday for handing down “one of the worst decisions [ever] issued.”

“We are not going to let this decision to go unchallenged,” Schumer told reporters. “At a time when Americans are worried about special interests having too much influence, this decision opens up the floodgates and allow special interest money to overflow elections and undermine our democracy.”

Schumer also said the legislation has the backing of the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

Republican support for the bill may be much harder to come by. Republican campaign finance warhorse Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who has been mostly quiet on the Citizens United decision, is fending off a conservative primary challenge from ex-Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) and is unlikely to enter the fray.

On Thursday, Schumer declined to name any possible Republicans who might support the bill. Still, Schumer said he is confident Republicans will be brought on board.

“It’s hard to see how Republicans can be against disclosures, disclaimers and [support] foreign influence on our electoral process,” Schumer said. “We expect there will be Republican support.”