- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2010

The head of the nation’s biggest business lobby says lawmakers who try to roll back the Supreme Court’s pro-business campaign finance ruling are in for a fight.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue decried a Democrat-led campaign finance measure, which imposes stiff disclosure requirements on corporations and unions that run political ads, as an attempt to “basically cut a number of people out of the political process” ahead of this fall’s midterm elections.

“This is nothing but an overt effort to change the rules, to change the election, and if you vote for it you do it at your own peril,” Mr. Donohue told reporters Friday at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

House Democrats were hoping to vote on the legislation, dubbed the Disclose Act, last week but ran out of time before their weeklong Memorial Day vacation.

Sponsors of the bill, led by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, say Congress must correct the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case, which struck down a ban on corporations and unions using their treasuries to run political ads in elections. Critics of that ruling say new rules are needed to prevent money from unduly influencing politics.

“The Court’s overreaching and indefensible judicial activism in Citizens United was contrary to the positions taken by past presidents, past Congresses and the Supreme Court over the last 20 years, all of whom concluded that the corporate spending ban was necessary to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption,” several campaign-finance groups wrote in a letter to lawmakers last week.

Since the early part of the 1900s unions and corporations have faced strict limits on what they can do in campaigns. Both are prohibited from using their treasuries to contribute directly, and the Supreme Court ruling did not change that.

Mr. Donohue and other opponents of Democrats’ legislation say it would change the balance by applying some of the new rules only to corporations and not unions. For example, a group of former Federal Election Commission members said Democrats’ proposed ban on campaign advertising by any corporation that takes government contracts or corporations with foreign ownership would not apply to unions.

“This is so transparent. It is so patently political,” Mr. Donohue said. “If we’re going to talk about disclosure and change the rules … we ought not to do it and try and cram it in two months, three months before the election season starts just for the convenience of people that are worried about losing.”

The Chamber of Commerce, which claims at least 3 million members, is a perennial force in congressional elections, though Mr. Donohue declined to specify which races it is focusing on this fall. The organization last this week warned the House that it intends to score how members vote on the bill.

• Kara Rowland can be reached at krowland@washingtontimes.com.

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