When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United, many people thought a flood of corporate funded, pro-industry political ads would hit the airwaves. Corporations, however, have hesitated in exercising their newly-announced freedom to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns. Why would corporations pass on the opportunity to exert even more influence on the government? The answer seems to be fear of backlash: corporations may want to support campaigns against certain regulations, but not at the risk of antagonizing Congressmen, consumers, and employees. Instead of offering outright support for campaigns, it seems some corporations have funneled funds into political organizations. According to an article in the Washington Post, the Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads, and American Action Network have pledged to raise $127 million for the upcoming election season.
Unfortunately for image-conscious corporations, legislation introduced by Democrats would make it even harder for them to enter the political game. In early May, Democrats introduced the Disclosure Act Proposal. The Act would require corporations, unions, Section 501(c)(4) and (6) organizations, and Section 527 organizations disclose all campaign-related expenditures to the public. In some instances, the act goes even farther, requiring corporate CEOs to appear on camera in political ads to say, "I approve this message." The Act calls for corporations and organizations to stand by their ads. In addition, if the Act went into effect, corporations hiding behind the veil of political organizations would also be exposed. Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce would have to list all contributors who gave more than $1,000.00 on their website. Likewise, the top 5 contributors would have to be listed at the end of all ads run by such political organizations.
Some who are opposed to the Act say it is simply a way of discouraging corporations from speaking. The legislation will likely serve as a deterrent to those corporations that do not want to be identified as supporting unpopular views on legislation. Is the Disclosure Act a legitimate way of limiting the Citizens United decision? Will it protect government from being run by corporate interests, or will it just unduly expose corporations to undo attack and criticism? We have yet to find out. Then again, it may never see the light of day. A hearing on it was recently postponed, giving businesses more time to lobby against it.