Anticipating a Supreme Court decision that could free corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) introduced five bills on Wednesday to choke off the expected flood of corporate cash.
"We are facing a potential threat to our democracy," Grayson said in an interview with HuffPost. "Unlimited corporate spending on campaigns means the government is up for sale and that the law itself will be bought and sold. It would be political bribery on the largest scale imaginable."
At issue in the Supreme Court case is whether the government can limit corporate spending during presidential and congressional campaigns. The case is pitting Citizens United, a conservative group, against the Federal Election Commission. The FEC banned ads for Citizens United's film bashing Hillary Clinton during the 2008 election season.
Grayson introduced a handful of bills on Wednesday -- the Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act, the Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act, the End Political Kickbacks Act, and two other measures.
The Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act would impose a 500 percent excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns. The Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act would require public companies to report what they spend to influence public opinion on any matter other than the promotion of their goods and services. The End Political Kickbacks Act would restrict political contributions by government contractors.
The other measures would apply antitrust regulations to political committees and bar corporations from securities exchanges unless the corporation is certified in compliance with election law.
"This case is basically about an effort to get around that. Citizens United took corporate money and tried to influence an election," said Lisa Gilbert of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "These are all pieces of good policy. I hope they draw attention to the potential frightening implications of Citizens United."
ABCNews reported on Wednesday
that Democratic leadership is hard at work on a legislative response to the Supreme Court's expected ruling. Grayson told HuffPost that he had consulted with leadership before launching his preemptive strike. LinkHere
The hotly anticipated Supreme Court case that could open the door to a flood of corporate money in political campaigns represents the latest thrust in a patient, carefully orchestrated bid to use legal challenges to undo the restrictions passed by Congress.
The opinion on the case brought by the conservative advocacy group Citizens United is overdue and today was pushed back by at least another week. Election lawyers say it could have broad implications for the way cash flows into mid-term congressional elections that are gearing up now.
The case is just the latest of dozens of legal challenges brought over the past eight years that have been financed by major Republican donors and interest groups. Most of the cases have been designed to chip away at the landmark bipartisan law carried through congress in 2002 by senators John McCain, R.-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D.-Wisc.
Funding for the effort has come in part from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, the Charlotte & Walter Kohler Foundation, and the Roe Foundation , all of which have handed out millions to conservative causes in recent years.
The lawyer who has handled the bulk of the cases is a Republican National Committeeman from Terre Haute, Indiana, James Bopp Jr. Citizens United, which hired Bopp in this latest case, is a conservative advocacy group that has produced searing documentaries aimed at Democrats. It was one of these, called "Hillary The Movie," that gave rise to this court challenge, which explores whether the government can restrict when the movie airs, or force the group to reveal who financed it.
"It's very clear that there is a coordinated effort going on to looking for each and every venue and each and every issue, to go shopping for cases and for friendly circuit courts, because they feel if they can get these questions to Supreme Court, they like their chances," said Meredith McGehee, who as policy director for reform-minded Campaign Legal Center has regularly fought these battles. "Jim Bopp is at the heart of it."