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US Chamber Lashes out at Democrats' Campaign-Finance Restrictions
A bill requiring more disclosure of campaign spending by corporations and unions hasn't been introduced yet, but it already is drawing fire from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which plans to pump at least $50 million into November's congressional elections.
Legislation Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., plan to introduce next week would sharply limit the ability of foreign corporations to help underwrite independent ads that call for the election or defeat of candidates.
But, in a move directed at the chamber and other non-profit groups that have been heavy hitters in federal politics, the legislation also would require disclosure of major donors to nonprofits if their money is used for campaign-related expenses. Currently, nonprofits, such as the Chamber, don't have to publicly identify their underwriters.
The bill, backed the Democratic leadership in Congress, comes in response to a January Supreme Court ruling, allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on independent political ads.
In a statement issued Friday, Chamber President Tom Donohue called Van Hollen's proposal a "thinly veiled attempt to hijack the political playing field to his advantage on the eve of mid-term elections."
House Democrats, he said, face "significant losses in the House this fall, and nothing in this ill-conceived and one-sided piece of legislation would change that. We will fight any and all attempts to muzzle and or demonize independent voices from the election discussion."
Doug Thornell, a Van Hollen spokesman shot back:
"It's not really surprising that powerful special interests based in Washington would be throwing temper tantrums over efforts to curb their influence and increase transparency so the American people know who is spending money on our elections. They may feel comfortable making their decisions behind closed doors, but the American people want sunlight in our democracy."
The broad outlines of the bill have been known for months, but lawmakers have labored in recent weeks to craft detailed disclosure provisions and to win Republican support. Earlier this week, Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., announced he would back the legislation.
(As we've previously noted, Democrats are gearing up to make the campaign-finance bill and proposed Wall Street regulations a key part of their November campaign message.)
The bill also would:
- Require the CEO or the head of an organization funding a political ad to appear in the ad. The organization's top five contributors also would be listed.
- Shield donors to nonprofits, such as the Chamber, from public disclosure if they bar the nonprofit from using their donations for political activity.
- Bar companies with 20% foreign ownership or a foreign-controlled board of directors from spending in U.S. elections.
- Prohibit political spending by companies with federal contracts of more than $50,000. Companies that received federal bailout money -- and have not repaid the government -- also would be barred from political spending.
(Posted by Fredreka Schouten)