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Castle joins effort to limit impact of political ad ruling

Thursday, April 29th, 2010



Delaware Congressman Mike Castle (R) is one of just a few Republicans who have signed on to sponsor a bill that is designed to reduce the influence of corporations and unions in political campaigns.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations could not be limited in their funding of political advertising.  The 5-4 ruling spawned fears that corporate groups and unions would flood the airwaves with political advertisements and influence election outcomes.  In a poll of more than 500 Delaware residents conducted by Survey USA after the decision, 61% disagreed with the decision.  That disagreement crossed party lines, with a majority of Democrats (68%), Republicans (54%), and Independents (58%) saying they opposed the decision.

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The bill sponsored by Congressman Castle and others cannot reverse the court’s decision, but instead, aims to blunt the impact it could have.  While the bill will protect the corporations and unions First Amendment rights as the Supreme Court has interpreted it, Castle says it will also, “Allow Americans to know who’s attempting to influence the outcome of an election.”  The bill would require corporations and unions to disclose the people or groups behind advertising that they’ll now be able to run.  The disclosure will be similar to the disclaimer candidates and political parties are now required to make.

The measure would also prevent foreign corporations from making political expenditures.  That ban also applies to companies that have received TARP funding.

Castle says getting the disclosure requirement approved could be an uphill battle.  He says it will most likely be a tough sell among members of his own party.  Castle says he’ll try to win some of his colleagues over, but he wasn’t confident that he would be successful.  “There are many Democrats who are supportive of it.  I think we’ll push hard to get something done, whether it will be in effect for this election cycle or not remains to be seen.”

Castle, who is running in Delaware’s special election for U.S. Senate, says he doesn’t think the Supreme Court ruling means that corporations or unions will have a big impact in Delaware races this year.  He says the national parties will most likely get involved in both his race for the Senate and the race to fill the seat he is vacating in the House.  “That is not corporations or labor unions doing direct advertising with respect to the candidates in these particular races, whether there be interest in them doing that, I simply don’t know.  Nobody’s ever expressed that interest to me.”

It doesn’t seem like the court ruling will be reversed by anything less than a Constitutional amendment, something Castle says is unlikely to happen.  “I don’t think there is sufficient political capital to get that done.”

Castle’s likely Democratic opponent, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons says he also supports this bill to require full disclosure of what groups are funding ads.  “The Citizens United ruling was disappointing because the last thing our nation needs is to make it easier for special interests to have even more influence on our elections,” Coons said in a statement.   “As a U.S. Senator, I would support this and other legislation that goes further to limit the role that special interests play in our elections.”


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