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Democrats prepare for election-year battle to craft Citizens United legislation

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Democrats prepare for election-year battle to craft Citizens United legislation

Legislation that aims to counteract the landmark Supreme Court ruling allowing corporate and union campaign spending could be introduced by the end of the week.

The bill would set up an election-year fight over a recent high court decision just as the Senate considers a nominee to fill the seat of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are expected to unveil their legislation by the end of this week, although an announcement could slip into the beginning of next week, a Democratic aide said.

The Democrats are working to line up Republican support in both chambers to make the bill a bipartisan offering. Reps. Mike Castle (R-Del.), Todd Platts (R-Pa.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.), all previous backers of campaign finance reform measures, are seen as the most likely GOP supporters of the bill, sources involved in the discussions said.

The legislation is a response to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in a case involving the conservative group Citizens United. That ruling overturned laws banning certain political spending by corporations, both for-profit and nonprofit, and unions. Democrats were furious with the decision, calling it a victory for corporate interests over average citizens, while Republicans said it was a long-overdue recognition that campaign spending should be treated as free speech.

Reform advocates say the bill closely conforms to a framework laid out by Van Hollen and Schumer two months ago. Major provisions include strict disclosure and disclaimer requirements for corporate-funded campaign ads, including a mandate that CEOs and top donors appear on camera to “approve” messages, much as candidates are required to do now. The bill would also explicitly ban contributions from companies with a 20 percent or greater foreign ownership stake, as well as from government contractors or firms that have received and not repaid Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds.

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