Already fast out of the box with an entire suite of legislation aimed at rolling back this week’s Supreme Court campaign finance decision, a freshman House member has just as quickly picked up important backing for at least one of his measures to put the lid back on money in politics.
In a split 5-4 conservative decision that was breaktaking in its breadth, the high court struck down most of the federal campaign finance apparatus — much of it put into law on a bipartisan basis — designed to limit the power of corporations in American politics.
Not freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.). The Orlando-area liberal has proposed six bills designed to reinstate limits on the influence of big business in politics that the court’s five conservative members did away with, some of those limits dating to the administration of President Teddy Roosevelt.
“If we do nothing, then before long, there won’t be Senators from Oklahoma or Virginia, there will be Senators from Citibank and Walmart,” he says. “Maybe they will wear insignias on their $500 suits, like NASCAR drivers do.”
Grayson calls his bills his “Save Our Democracy” package, which would seek to limit corporate political spending by taxing it, requiring disclosures, and preventing political giving on the part of firms that take federal funds, and more.
Within 24 hours, Grayson had picked up the endorsement of a key House leader for at least one of his proposals, the Ending Corporate Collusion Act (H.R. 4433). House Judiciary Comittee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) became the first co-sponsor of the bill, which would apply antitrust laws to industry political action committees (PACs).
“I am thrilled that Chairman Conyers agrees with me that something must be done to save our democracy,” Grayson says. “He exercises Congressional oversight of the Judicial Branch. We are all appalled by the Supreme Court’s reckless decision.”
Most campaign giving from PACs comes from business, not labor or Left or Right ideological groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. During the 2008 election cycle, the political action committees of business interests contributed about 4.5 times as much to candidates and parties than their labor counterparts, and nearly five times as much as ideological PACs, the center says. The ratio between business PACs and labor PACs is about the same so far during the 2010 election cycle, it adds.
H.R. 4433 has been referred to Conyers’ Judiciary Committee for action. That the bill already has the backing of the panel chairman bolsters its chances to advance greatly.
“I am looking into any and all avenues to alleviate the harm to the American people that the Supreme Court has done with yesterday’s decision,” Conyers says in a statement released Friday. “I appreciate Mr. Grayson’s efforts to respond to the Court’s decision and am pleased to be working with him in finding the best means of protecting our political process from undue corporate influence.”
The political influence coming out of the wealthy, powerful and highly pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce already has been the subject of much recent scrutiny.