Franken wants CEOs to “Say Cheese” in political ads

DFL Sen. Al Franken and several other U.S. Senators are backing legislation that would require any corporate CEOs to appear in any political ads that they purchase. The measure would also prohibit foreign companies and government contractors from participating. Here’s part of the news release:

Under the Senators’ proposal, the heads of any organization sponsoring an ad–including corporate CEOs–would be required to appear during the ad, as is currently required of candidates for federal office. In cases where special interests funnel their money into shell groups, the top five organizations that have donated to the group would have to be identified on screen during any ad sponsored by that group. The CEO of the group’s top funder for that particular advertisement would also be required to appear on screen to deliver a “stand by your ad” disclaimer.

The DISCOLOSE Act would effectively require, for the first time, all corporations and advocacy groups that make political expenditures to establish easy-to-track campaign accounts. All donations to these accounts that exceed $1,000–as well as all expenditures funded through these accounts–would be reported within 24 hours to the Federal Election Commission once the money is spent, as well as to the public on the organization’s website, and to company shareholders in their corporate filing statements. If a company or organization did not wish to establish these transparent accounts, it would be required to disclose all its donors, not just those whose contributions are earmarked for political activities.

The legislation will also strengthen a candidate’s ability to respond to corporate attack ads by ensuring they can purchase air time at the lowest possible rate in the same media markets where these attacks ads are airing. The bill would also make sure that private corporations don’t coordinate their political activities with candidates.

The legislation was developed together with the Obama administration and House leaders including U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Van Hollen was expected to introduce the House version of the DISCLOSE Act later today with Republican cosponsors.

Update: Here’s a statement from U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue:

“What’s most in need of disclosure is the real purpose behind this bill–it’s nothing more than a brazen attempt to tilt the playing field in favor of the incumbent party in this fall’s elections, silence constitutionally protected speech, and abridge First Amendment rights.

“It’s a sad day when legislators like Rep. Van Hollen and Sen. Schumer so blatantly put politics before the people’s business. With unemployment near 10% and millions of Americans out of work, Congress should be more concerned about creating jobs than protecting their own. It’s no coincidence that Rep. Van Hollen is the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Sen. Schumer is immediate past chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Sen. Schumer even admits his legislation is designed to ‘impact’ this fall’s elections ‘as much as possible.’

“Stifling free speech is an abuse of the legislative process and is unconstitutional. It will not stand. Free speech does not corrupt our politics, but efforts to limit it do.”

  • Matt

    When the amount of free speech one is allowed is determined by the amount of money that can be put behind it, then yes, it does corrupt our politics. Money talks, and at the moment, money buys elections very effectively. As far as the interests of the public go, that is a bad thing (given the current concentration of wealth in the hands of very few people). Opening up more avenues for money to influence elections will only further entrench our society in a system of haves and have-nots.