Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., along with several other legislators introduced a bill Thursday that would increase the amount of disclosure required from corporations regarding spending in federal elections.
The bill, called the Disclose Act, is a response to a January decision by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. The decision allows unlimited spending by labor unions and corporations in federal campaigns.
The controversial 5-4 decision reversed nearly 100 years of regulation regarding federal campaign financing.
Feingold characterized the outcome of the case as a “tragic error.” Also opposing the court’s decision was Andrea Kaminski, executive director for the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, who called the decision “absolutely devastating.”
The new legislation was introduced by Feingold and Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn.; Evan Bayh, D-Ind.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; and Charles E. Schumer, D-NY. It would require unions and companies that make campaign donations endorse their ads and disclose the names of the groups making donations.
The law would also prohibit government contractors, companies that have received government assistance and foreign-controlled corporations from making contributions.
The legislators hope to get the bill passed by July 4, so it will be law by the time midterm elections roll around.
“While no bill can reverse the Court’s mistake, we need to make sure that the public can follow the money and see exactly who is behind the onslaught of political advertising that the decision has unleashed,” Feingold said in a statement.
Also coming out in favor of the bill was President Barack Obama, who expressed concern corporations would play a bigger role in deciding the outcome of elections than U.S. citizens.
Though many have expressed their support for the legislation, representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasted the bill, saying it simultaneously goes against business interests and civil liberties.
“What’s most in need of disclosure is the real purpose behind this bill — it’s nothing more than a brazen attempt to tilt the playing field in favor of the incumbent party in this fall’s elections, silence constitutionally protected speech and abridge First Amendment rights,” U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue said in a statement.
U.S. Chamber Council Partner Theodore Olson thinks the legislation is an attempt to limit the free speech of companies.
Though he supports the bill, Common Cause In Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck said he believes with all of the private interests that influence the political process, this bill may have a hard time getting through Congress. There is really only one way to solve the problems the Supreme Court Decision will cause, he said.
“The bill does a number of things that are necessary, but the best way to solve this problem would be to overturn the court’s decision and put back the restrictions,” Heck said.