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Dems Unveil Plan to Boost Campaign Finance Laws

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)unveiled their campaign finance reform legislation today, having spent a few weeks closely
coordinating the language with White House ethics officials and their allies in the reform movement.

The legislation attempts to predict the influence of the decision and create procedural deterrents to, for example, prevent the influence of foreign entities in U.S. elections. More to the point of campaigns, it attempts to give candidates and parties a bit of an advantage over corporations and labor unions.

Under the proposed law, corporations would not be able to spend money in U.S. elections if a majority of members of their board were foreign, if 20 percent or more of the company were foreign-owned, or if U.S. activities of the corporation fell under the direction of control of a foreign entity -- either a corporation, a person or a government. This is an easy pass.

This next reform would hit government contractors: They'd be barred from any sort of political expenditures because they do business directly
with the government. Corporate beneficiaries of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money would not be able to use TARP money to spend in elections. This too is fairly uncontroversial.

CEOs and labor union leaders would have to "stand by their ad" -- appearing on camera approving the message, just like candidates are required to do now. The legislation would also try to "prevent individuals and corporations from funneling money through shell groups" in order to influence legislation or candidates by forcing the largest source of revenue for the group to make the "stand by your ad" disclaimer -- the top five contributors to the organization would have to be listed at the end of the ad.

For us FEC nerds, the legislation requires corporations, unions and 527 groups to set up "political broadcast spending" accounts to take in and disburse political money used for TV or radio ads. Stringent disclose requirements are included here.

Corporations will fight this one: Any expenditure they make on politics has to be disclosed on their Web site with a "clear link on their homepage" and disclosed quarterly to shareholders.

Also, lobbyists will now have to disclose any contribution in excess of $1,000 and the FEC will keep and report a running total of what they've spent.

Finally, when a corporation decides to buy an ad to influence a rate in a particular market, the candidate or party then gets (a) reasonable access to airtime and (b) the lowest unit rate charged per ratings point by the broadcaster.

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder is CBS News' chief political consultant. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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