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Democrats Unveil Citizens United Response Bill

Updated: 12:03 p.m.

After weeks of delay, Democrats on Thursday are introducing their legislative response to a recent Supreme Court decision that lifted political spending restrictions on corporations, trade associations and nonprofit groups.

In the Senate, the bill will be sponsored by Rules and Administration Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold (Wis.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.). Despite repeated attempts to recruit Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.) and John McCain (Ariz.), Schumer failed to enlist a single GOP co-sponsor for the proposal, which would counter the high court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

A House version will also be unveiled on Thursday. Led by Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the bill will be co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) and Mike Castle (Del.).

Advanced details released by the Senators indicate that the bill will bulk up disclosure requirements for the expected surge of television advertising by the once-prohibited groups, while “barring foreign-controlled corporations, government contractors, and [Temporary Asset Relief Program] recipients from making political expenditures.”

As its details emerged on Thursday, reviews were mixed for the long-awaited proposal that was designed to not only garner bipartisan support, but meet long-held GOP campaign finance concessions such as the beefed-up disclosure and the relaxation of coordination rules for party committees and candidates.

Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said in a statement that the bill will “mitigate the destructive impact of the Citizens United decision,” while former Federal Election Commission Chairman Brad Smith, a Republican, said in his own statement that it will “hyper-regulate the political speech of businesses and nonprofits.”

Reviving a successful political bogeyman from his 2008 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama on Thursday said the legislation will limit “powerful special interests.” He added that “lobbyists should not be able to drown out the voices of the American people.”

“The legislation introduced today would establish the toughest-ever disclosure requirements for election-related spending by big oil corporations, Wall Street and other special interests, so the American people can follow the money and see clearly which special interests are funding political campaign activity and trying to buy representation in our government,” Obama said in a statement. “Passing the legislation is a critical step in restoring our government to its rightful owners: the American people.”

In his own statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats were playing politics with their bill.

“It should be beyond suspicious when the man in charge of electing Democrats in the House teams up with the man who held the same job in the Senate to tell Americans how they can express themselves in an election,” McConnell said. “Make no mistake about it, the campaign finance bill introduced this morning is not about reform, transparency, accountability or good government. It is about election advantage plain and simple.”
McConnell added that the bill disregards the First Amendment and “has no place in this country.”

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