Greg Sargent reports that Democrats are amassing "bipartisan support" for legislation aimed at limiting the Supreme Court's small but vital affirmation of free speech in Citizen's United v. FEC. "The bill that Dems are planning will have more bipartisan support than expected, a Dem leadership aide confirms," Sargent writes at the Plum Line.
How much more support? "[A] Dem leadership aide says it will be introduced tomorrow with at least one more GOP sponsor in addition to Mike Castle, though the aide wouldn’t reveal who. This will allow Dems to push back by pointing out that the measure has GOP support." So at least two moderate-to-liberal Republicans will sign on. That's nice.
And what would this bill do? "The legislation seeks to increase transparency and disclosure of political spending, including provisions forcing heads of organizations spending big money on elections to reveal their personal involvement," Sargent writes. "It also seeks to prevent foreign money from influencing elections, and ensures that recipients of Federal money — contractors, TARP recipients — can’t spend cash in elections."
Foreigners are already barred from contributing to U.S. elections, not that they don't try. Prohibiting recipients of taxpayer largesse from spending on elections has visceral appeal, especially where I'm sitting.
An earlier New York Times story notes that Democrats are indeed pushing for more disclosure: "One provision would require the chief executive of any company or group that is the main backer of a campaign advertisement to personally appear in television and radio spots to acknowledge the sponsorship, the officials said." Sounds like fun.
Disclosure is controversial, of course. I tend to favor more disclosure rather than less in conjunction with fewer limits on who can give what to whom. Politics is a public business, after all. Here's what I wrote in the Scripps-Howard column in September:
The cure for campaign finance reform is fewer rules, not more. There should be little or no restriction on money in politics. There should be no limits on what a candidate can raise and spend. Political parties, corporations, unions... let them all in. The only exception should be for foreign contributions.
Transparency and instant Internet disclosure make most of the old objections and warnings about quid pro quo corruption irrelevant. If a political candidate receives the financial aid of large corporations, and public knows about it, then the question of undue influence falls to the voters to resolve. As it should be.
I realize, of course, there are strong arguments against more government-mandated disclosure rules. As Bradley Smith, the former federal elections commissioner, argued recently in City Journal: "Disclosure has resulted in government-enabled invasions of privacy—and sometimes outright harassment—and it has added to a political climate in which candidates are judged by their funders rather than their ideas." Justice Thomas dissented from part of the majority in Citizens United on that very basis.
We'll see what other odious provisions appear in the new legislation. I'm sure there will be plenty of nasty surprises. Congress has a rather elastic reading of the First Amendment. It says "make no law," ladies and gentlemen. "Make NO law."
(Cross-posted at Freedom Pub.)