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Published: Friday, 3/26/2010

Preserve voice of voters

LAWMAKERS have heard the cries of citizens alarmed that their voices will be drowned out by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow unlimited political spending by corporations and unions. Legislation proposed in Washington and Columbus that would limit which companies or groups can engage in campaign advertising and make transparent whose money is buying what ads should be enacted in time for the Nov. 2 general election.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) are planning legislation that would ban campaign spending by domestic companies under foreign control, as well as by companies that got federal bailout funds or have government contracts.

Their bill also would require the five largest contributors to third-party ads to be identified, and force CEOs to go on camera to approve messages in ads their companies pay for.

Corporate and union political spending would have to be disclosed. Coordination between candidates or political parties and the entities paying for ads would be strictly limited.

As welcome as this proposal is, it should not prevent Ohio lawmakers from setting their own disclosure requirements. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, state Sen. Jon Husted (R., Kettering), and Reps. Dennis Murray (D., Sandusky) and Jay Goyal (D., Mansfield) have proposals that mirror major aspects of the Schumer-Van Hollen plan.

It will not be easy to undo the fractured Supreme Court logic that transformed corporations from inanimate objects into living, breathing citizens with protected rights to free political speech.

But passing strong, bipartisan federal and state regulations will deter corporations and unions from using their deep pockets to buy elections. It would prevent politicians from extorting campaign help from companies or groups through threats or promises.

More than that, it will send a strong message to the courts that lawmakers will not turn a blind eye to the increasing influence of money in politics, as well as to voters that their representatives can work across party lines when democracy is threatened.



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