Democrats Aim to Curb Corporate Political Influence

A new bill would require CEOs to personally appear in ads

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The Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case this January rolled back restrictions on corporate spending in campaigns, which could fundamentally reshape the political landscape. Democrats, worried that GOP-friendly corporate interests will overshadow all other interests, are fighting back. In a new bill pushed by the White House and Congressional Democrats, CEOs will be required to personally appear in any political ad funded by their company. Could this really limit the role of corporations in a post-Citizens United world?

  • As Close As They'll Get To Repeal  The New York Times' Eric Lichtblau reports that Democrats originally wanted to legislate something like a full repeal of Citizens United. "In reviewing the Supreme Court's decision, lawyers for the administration and Congressional Democrats soon realized that the majority's strong language left them little room to try to ban corporate money altogether, according to people involved in the discussions. They have focused instead on forcing public disclosure of political backers as a way to bring transparency to the process and, perhaps, to discourage excessive corporate involvement."
  • Nice In Theory, Tough In Practice The Washington Post's Ezra Klein cautions, "The question, of course, is how effective it would be at getting the corporate backers to appear in ads that are under another organization's name." Corporations with many umbrella groups and holding companies are famously skilled at getting around this sort of legislation. For example, Kraft Foods owns the Phillip Morris cigarette company as well as organic food companies. Couldn't they make a big donation on behalf of tobacco interests, but have the head of their less-controversial organic food company appear in the ad?
  • Eye on Elections, Dems Go Populist The Plum Line's Greg Sargent muses, "Now this is an interesting way to throw down the gauntlet ... With this move, Obama and Dems are moving to recapture their populist and reform credentials, post health care, heading into the midterms."
  • Dems Against Wall Street The New York Times' Eric Lichtblau writes, "Democrats say they think the debate gives them an attractive political issue. It allows them to position themselves against Wall Street and corporate money in politics while railing against what they view as the Supreme Court's pro-business stance just as a new vacancy has opened on the court."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.