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Legislative Memo

Ken Pokalsky
Vice President of Government Affairs
T 518.465.7511
www.bcnys.org

BILL:

Assembly Resolution K1016 (Brennan)

Support

SUBJECT:

"Citizen's United"

 

DATE:

March 26, 2012

 

The Business Council opposes adoption of this Assembly Resolution that urges the U.S. Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment to allow Congress and the states to “fully regulate” all election contributions and expenditures using “corporate money.” We believe the Constitutional amendment proposed in Resolution K1016 is both one-sided and unnecessary.

In Citizens United, the Court found that, “There is no basis for the proposition that, in the political speech context, the Government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers.”  In contrast, this resolution is intended to do exactly the opposite.

Among other things, this resolution is based on the belief that the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC “presents a serious and direct threat to our democracy.”

If true, this resolution makes a literally half-hearted attempt at addressing such threats, since only half of the entities affected by Citizens United are addressed in this resolution.  While Citizens United overturned federal statute banning both corporations and unions from using general treasury funds to finance “electioneering communications” expressing the support or defeat of specific candidates, this resolution calls only for Constitutional authority to regulate corporate spending, excluding unions from any additional federal or state regulation. 

Apparently, this resolution presupposes that only corporate funds, but not union funds, pose a “serious and direct threat,” despite the massive levels of spending by unions on the national level.  As example, according to the nonpartisan “Real Clear Politics,” fourteen of the twenty largest political spenders from 1989 to 2012 were public and private sector unions, all but two of which also gave at least 88 percent of their total contributions to the same political party.  According to the same source, unions also represented half of the twenty largest spenders on independent expenditures and communications over the same period.

Even with the decision in Citizens United, we have both federal and state-level regulation on direct campaign contributions, applicable to both corporate and union-sponsored political action committees.  Therefore, the resolution’s call for authority to regulate “election contributions” is unclear.

While the need for additional federal or state regulation of political speech by any parties can be debated, there should be broad agreement that any further regulation on political speech or participation in the political arena should apply equally to all participants.

For these reasons, The Business Council opposes Resolution K1016 and its proposed unequal treatment of corporate engagement in the political process.