Talking about campaign finance regulations
Wednesday, December 26, 2012 9:00 PM
"In the Shadows: Campaign Finance Regulation and Disclosure after Citizens United" was the topic of recent forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Indiana, Common Cause, and AARP. Held in the House of Representative Chambers of the Indiana State House, the Forum attracted a large number of attorneys (who received Continuing Legal Education Credit) as well as League, Common Cause and AARP members.
Former State Supreme Court Justice Theodore Boehm moderated a distinguished panel: Cynthia Bauerly, member of the Federal Election Commission since 2008; Paul Ryan, Senior Counsel for the Campaign Legal Center who has extension background in election law and appears as expert on news programs such as CNN, NBC, C-SPAN, NPR and other media outlets; and Stephen Spaulding, Common Cause Staff Counsel.
In Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court invalidated a longstanding federal law prohibition on corporate independent expenditures, concluding that "independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption."
The speakers noted that the Court appeared to assume that contributions would be not be given as a 'quid pro quo" for improper commitments from candidates and that current disclosure laws would provide citizens with information needed to "see whether elected officials are 'in the pocket' of so-called money interests."
These assumptions are contrary to experience since Citizens United. This 5-4 decision permits corporations and other special interests to spend as much as they like to advocate the election or defeat of political candidates. Laws that bar those interests from contributing directly to candidates remain in place, but the ruling lifted controls on political giving that had been in place for decades.
Citizens United permits individuals, corporations, and unions to give unlimited amounts to groups called Independent-expenditure-only committees, more commonly known as "super PACs." Super PACS can accept unlimited contributions and spend unlimited sums on political advertisements. Over one billion dollars was spent in the 2012 election.
The solution presented was transparency and disclosure. People and stock holders have the right to know who is supporting candidates. Common Cause is promoting "Amend 2012" and encourages people to watch a video (www.Amend2012.org) with Common Cause Board chairman Robert Reich detailing how and why Americans must work to reverse Citizens United.
Other organizations such as Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center are working for reform before the2014 election. Corporate Reform Coalition has graded all fifty states on the extent to which the state requires disclosure of corporate political expenditures for such things as broadcast ads.
According to this report, Indiana has no ban on corporate independent expenditures. No significant campaign finance legislation has passed in years, and Indiana does not require reporting of independent expenditure nor electioneering communications. Indiana does require a disclaimer on ads indicating that the candidate did not pay for them and identification of the person who paid for the ad. IN ST 3-9-3-2.5 (d).
The LWV supports the Federal Disclose Act which would require disclosure of those who have contributed $10,000 or more. Introduced in 2011 and again in 2012, the US Senate did not receive the needed support to even allow a vote on this bill last summer. There is growing public demand for transparency and LWV urges Congress to enact the Disclose Act in 2013!
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information about the League, visit the website: www.lwvmontco.org, send a message to LWV, PO Box 101 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.