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TO: Members of the U.S. Senate
FROM: Mary G. Wilson, President
RE: Updating Campaign Finance Laws for the 2010 Elections
With the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC, it is critically important for Congress to update campaign finance laws, especially disclosure requirements governing corporate and union spending. With the 2010 elections fast approaching, delay is simply not a viable option.
The Court’s decision in Citizens United allows corporations to make unlimited independent expenditures in candidate elections, thus changing the foundation on which decades of congressional enactments on campaign finance are built. Such fundamental change requires a considered response from Congress. We support a variety of approaches, but we do not expect legislation adopted this year to address every possible issue. However, some steps clearly are vital to govern the conduct of the 2010 elections.
After Citizens United, we urgently need enhanced disclosure. This is the most basic step toward protecting the role of the voter in making decisions in elections. It is now possible for corporations to secretly provide funds that another corporation uses to intervene directly in an election. This is simply unacceptable.
The Court pointed in the direction of enhanced disclosure when it said that disclosure is important to “providing the electorate with information.” It also supported disclaimer requirements “so that the people will be able to evaluate the arguments to which they are being subjects.” We couldn’t agree more.
After providing enhanced disclosure, the next most important step for Congress is to do no further harm. A decision as far-reaching as Citizens United will provoke proposals that could make our election system and government processes even worse. Such steps as raising contribution limits to candidates and PACs, or allowing corporations and unions to donate huge sums to political parties or even to candidates, could increase corruption or the appearance of corruption and further distort our political processes.
Senator Schumer and Rep. Van Hollen have released a legislative framework providing for heightened disclosure, more complete disclaimers, barring election spending by foreign corporations, barring election ads by government contractors, clarifying coordination rules, and ensuring candidates can afford to respond to heavy corporate or union spending. We believe this is a responsible and balanced approach.
Fair and clean elections, determined by the votes of American citizens, should be at the center of our democracy. Congress must act quickly in addressing the Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC.