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Money and democracy: notable quotes

With high-profile coverage in The Progressive and other news sources, both a constitutional amendment and the anticipated bill from congressional Democrats in response to Citizens United v. FEC, received significant attention this week.

In a video released by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Co.),  the senator pledges support for a constitutional amendment allowing Congress to regulate corporate contributions and expenditures. He also states his support for the proposal by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), which would require CEOs to stand by their ads, quick disclosure and sunshine rules, and would place restrictions on foreign corporations and TARP recipients.

In Bloomberg News, Public Citizen’s Craig Holman was quoted on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to the anticipated Van Hollen-Schumer measure: “The Chamber is going to end up with at least one very undesirable element: The public is going to know exactly which corporations are the major funders,” said Craig Holman, who handles campaign finance issues for Public Citizen, a Washington group that supports more regulation of political giving.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) was quoted in the The Progressive from the video on freespeechforpeople.org, saying:

 We need to “take matters into our own hands to enact a constitutional amendment that once and for all declares that we the people govern our elections and our campaigns, not we the corporations,” Edwards said, in a great video on the website freespeechforpeople.org. “Imagine a world where corporations could spend the never-ending source of their corporations’ treasuries on elections and campaigns and public policy. The people would completely lose our voice. . . . It would be gone.”

 In the same article, Rep. Van Hollen signals his optimism toward passage this year of campaign finance reforms to lessen the impact of Citizens United:

Despite the partisan roadblocks ahead, Van Hollen predicts campaign finance reform will be signed into law this year. Soon after the Supreme Court ruling on the Citizens United case allowing increased corporate spending on elections, Van Hollen teamed up with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to craft a legislative response. Their bill will be unveiled in April.

With Obama pushing the measure, Van Hollen asserts that it can attract at least one GOP vote in the Senate. “If you look at polling, whether you’re a Republican, Independent or Democrat, there is strong support for vetting this kind of big corporate money dumped into these elections,” he said.

Van Hollen also was quoted in The Hill about the anticipated impact of unlimited corporate money possibly spent directly or funneled through nonprofit organizations to influence elections:

One fiscal uncertainty looming over the election is the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts in election campaigns. Within the next two weeks, Van Hollen said, he and Sen. Charles Schumer will unveil a bill they’ve been working on to deal with the decision. He said he doesn’t expect a flood of direct corporate money in campaigns, because that would tick off half the customers of any given company. There is, however, a “very large” risk that corporations will pour money into third-party organizations with innocuous names like “Good Government Inc.,” he said.

The bill will address both possibilities. It will require chief executives of corporations to appear onscreen to make clear if an ad is sponsored by a corporation, Van Hollen said, and third-party ads will have to include an onscreen list of backers to make clear which corporations are financing them.