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The next battle in campaign finance reform

Lawmakers in Congress have unveiled legislation to temper the Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited spending by corporations and unions on political campaign ads. They could use help from Republicans who have supported campaign finance reform in the past.

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Once a Supreme Court ruling has been issued, overturning it can be as hard as the white marble of the justices’ stately building.

It can be done through constitutional amendment, which is slow and arduous. It can be done, perhaps, through another high court ruling, which depends on a new case and the mix of justices hearing it.

The best that can be hoped for is legislation that tries to mitigate the effect of a ruling. That’s what some lawmakers in Congress are attempting with proposed legislation on campaign finance.

This week, members of the House and Senate – mostly Democrats – unveiled legislation dubbed the “Disclose Act.” It attempts to blunt the court’s regrettable decision in January to overturn a previous campaign finance law, thus opening the floodgates of corporate and union spending in elections.

The court did not shine in its 5-to-4 decision in the case of Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission. It broke with precedent by allowing unlimited spending by corporations and unions on political campaign ads.

The majority found that corporations and labor unions have the same First Amendment right of free political speech that individuals have. With that, they opened up a broad river channel for deep-pocket special interests to drown out the voices (donations) of individual citizens.


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