Anticipating a Supreme Court decision that could free corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) introduced five bills on Wednesday to choke off the expected flood of corporate cash.
"We are facing a potential threat to our democracy," Grayson said in an interview with HuffPost. "Unlimited corporate spending on campaigns means the government is up for sale and that the law itself will be bought and sold. It would be political bribery on the largest scale imaginable."
At issue in the Supreme Court case is whether the government can limit corporate spending during presidential and congressional campaigns. The case is pitting Citizens United, a conservative group, against the Federal Election Commission. The FEC banned ads for Citizens United's film bashing Hillary Clinton during the 2008 election season.
Grayson introduced a handful of bills on Wednesday -- the Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act, the Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act, the End Political Kickbacks Act, and two other measures.
The Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act would impose a 500 percent excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns. The Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act would require public companies to report what they spend to influence public opinion on any matter other than the promotion of their goods and services. The End Political Kickbacks Act would restrict political contributions by government contractors.
The other measures would apply antitrust regulations to political committees and bar corporations from securities exchanges unless the corporation is certified in compliance with election law.
"This case is basically about an effort to get around that. Citizens United took corporate money and tried to influence an election," said Lisa Gilbert of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "These are all pieces of good policy. I hope they draw attention to the potential frightening implications of Citizens United."
ABCNews reported on Wednesday that Democratic leadership is hard at work on a legislative response to the Supreme Court's expected ruling. Grayson told HuffPost that he had consulted with leadership before launching his preemptive strike.
Jeff Patch, a spokesman for the Center for Competitive Politics, an organization that advocates for lifting campaign finance restrictions, said Grayson's bills were too focused on corporate spending. "These are totally targeted at corporations, but Citizens United is widely believed to affect corporations and unions and nonprofits equally."
Grayson disagreed. "One year's profit for Exxon is greater than the entire political expenditure of all unions put together," he said.
Grayson added that he wanted to send the message that people are paying attention to the Supreme Court.
"This issue transcends the usual political arguments. I don't think the teabaggers would be very happy if our government was bought and paid for by a huge national corporation," he said.
The Supreme Court's ruling, which has been expected for months, could come as soon as Jan. 20.
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