Campaign Reform Bill, Strategy Taking Shape

Posted April 22, 2010 at 6:31pm

With their campaign finance bill due to be introduced next week, House Democrats revealed on Thursday how they plan to sell it to colleagues and the public.

According to a memo obtained by Roll Call, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen’s (Md.) legislation would beef up campaign finance disclosure, political coordination and disclaimer requirements, while imposing new limits on political involvement by government contractors and foreign governments.

“Due to the appearance of corruption and possible misuse of taxpayer funds, government contractors with a contract worth more than $50,000 will not be allowed to spend money on elections,” the memo states. “Similarly, [Troubled Asset Relief Program] recipients who have not paid back government funds are also banned from spending.”

The memo dubs Van Hollen’s bill the DISCLOSE Act, an acronym for “Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.” It will be Democratic lawmakers’ first legislative attempt to blunt the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. In that ruling, the high court’s conservative majority threw out most federal restrictions on television ad buys by corporations, trade associations and nonprofit organizations.

Since the case was decided in January, House and Senate Democrats have struggled to enlist GOP support for their proposals. This week, Van Hollen accepted proposed concessions by Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a veteran campaign finance reformer, in exchange for Castle’s support.

Castle is running for the Senate this year.

Another House Republican — rumored to be either Reps. Todd Platts (Pa.) or Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) — was expected to endorse Van Hollen’s bill this week, according to a House leadership aide.

Meanwhile, Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) continues to search for a GOP co-sponsor in that chamber after failing to convince Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) or John McCain (R-Ariz.) to come aboard.

Most Republicans continue to argue that Van Hollen and Schumer are being disingenuous in their appeal for bipartisanship.

“Unlike prior election initiatives, the Schumer-Van Hollen bill up to now gives every indication of partisan motivations,” reads an April 15 three House Republicans sent to House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.). “Despite the chairman’s failure to respond to our request for cooperation, he continues to deceitfully assert that he has reached out to Republican on what he claims ‘should not be a partisan issue.'”