in the Citizens United vs. FEC case
. That ruling did away with campaign spending limits for unions and corporations, a move that was welcomed by many Republicans but scorned by many Democrats.Those Democrats are now trying to re-impose the restrictions that were imposed by the Supreme Court -- but only on corporations, and not on unions or government contractors.
It's called the DISCLOSE Act, and it's coming up for a vote as early as Friday.
As the Heritage Foundation notes
, one single union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, "plans to spend in excess of $50 million during the 2010 campaign, part of which will fund 'a massive incumbent protection program.'" Under the Democrats bill, those are the kinds of people who will be allowed to spend whatever they please on campaigns, while private businesses will be restricted. Republicans have tried to introduce amendments to make the bill more equitable -- I'm kind of curious why they did this since it simply needs to be scrapped all together -- but those Amendments were voted down on party lines.
A group of former FEC officials opined other follies of the bill in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial
For example, while the Disclose Act prohibits any corporation with a federal contract of $50,000 or more from making independent expenditures or electioneering communications, no such prohibition applies to unions. This $50,000 trigger is so low it would exclude thousands of corporations from engaging in constitutionally protected political speech, the very core of the First Amendment. Yet public employee unions negotiate directly with the government for benefits many times the value of contracts that would trigger the corporate ban.
If the bill goes through, it will almost certainly face another challenge in the Supreme Court -- the only question is "when." Will it be in time for the 2010 cycle? No matter what the result, it speaks volumes that Democrats think this type of legislation is a good idea.