House Democrats are forming a Citizens United task force to decide on the best set of legislative push back against the Supreme Court decision that upended 100 years of precedent and legalized unlimited corporate involvement in elections, Democratic members and aides told HuffPost.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tapped as the head Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), her assistant and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee - which has much to worry about when it comes to Citizens United.
The rump group pulls together all the relevant committee chairmen and selected members of those panels.
Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told HuffPost Wednesday he's working with the group and plans to hold a committee vote in March, with the goal of getting legislation in place in time for the 2010 election cycle.
"I am determined to do the maximum that is constitutionally permissible in our power to regulate public corporations," he said, calling the 5-4, party-line Supreme Court opinion "the most radically activist act I can think of."
Members of Frank's committee, including Reps. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) and Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), plan to meet with the chairman of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), as well as the chairmen and members of the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees.
Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and committee member Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) are members of the task force, as are Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.).
The group will consider a variety of proposals that would be in line with the new law as written by the gang of five justices. The group will consider a steep tax on political spending, expanding disclosure requirements, and banning foreign corporations from participating in elections.
"It's a high priority. I want the committee to be able to vote on this in March," said Frank. With Pelosi's backing, it could move quickly to the floor.
"You can do shareholder vote," said Frank, meaning that it is constitutional for Congress to require that a corporation get the approval of its shareholders before it spends company money on elections. "To the extent that corporate decision making is involved, we will do the maximum."
Grayson began introducing legislation to counter the Citizens United decision before it had been officially announced, including the "Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act," which would tax political expenditures at 500 percent.
Citizens United allows corporations to spend money directly from their general treasury, meaning Goldman Sachs could decide to make a few billion less in loans and instead spend it electing members of Congress, which might be a much more lucrative investment. The kind of money that Goldman can find in its couch cushions could dramatically alter a House race if they decided to run ads against a particular candidate or set of candidates.
"With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century," said Grayson after the ruling. "Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court's conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding."
Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who knows a serious political threat when he sees one, has been working in the Senate to see what legislation could get the support of the 60 now needed to break a filibuster. Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) both expressed opposition to the decision, but whether they'll help Democrats counter it is another question.
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