That Washington

Despite U.S. Sen. Murray's Tough Talk on Corporate Campaign Money, Federal Bill Would Leave Corporate Power Intact in WA State

By Josh Feit April 29, 2010

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray sent out a press release today hyping her role as a co-sponsor on a bill attempting to regulate corporate campaign money in wake of the controversial Citizen's United ruling.

The Supreme Court ruling—which President Obama condemned in his State of the Union Speech (prompting an infamous eye-roll from Chief Justice John Roberts)—allows corporations to spend money from their general treasuries on independent expenditures (ad campaigns executed separately from a candidate’s official campaign), something they were completely banned from doing until 2007, and then mostly banned from doing until this year's ruling. The bill would require disclosure on corporate-funded ads, forcing the CEO to deliver the same sort of "And I approved this message" that candidates have to do now.

Under United, corporations are still barred from contributing to candidates directly from their general treasuries. Candidates can take money from corporate PACS (limited to $2400), but the PACs themselves still cannot take money directly from corporate treasuries. (They must raise it from individuals.) Of course, the United decision, with its notion that corporations are people too, has set the precedent to knock down those campaign finance rules.

As righteous as Sen. Patty Murray's quote is, I do have to chuckle a little.

Here's what she says in her press release:
“The Supreme Court’s appalling ruling in Citizens United gave wealthy corporations and special interests a megaphone to drown out the voices of Washington state voters,” said Senator Patty Murray.“No voice should be more powerful in Washington state’s elections than the voices of our state’s voters.  I’m proud to support this effort to protect our democratic process and put power back in the hands of the people and grassroots activism.”

Storm the barricades and all, but as I've pointed out before, Washington State voters are already drowned out by corporate giving. Our state election rules are actually more lax when it comes to corporate giving than the new federal rules established by Citizens United.

First of all, in Washington State, corporations are already free to directly spend money on IEs at anytime.

More important, Washington state does not prohibit corporations from giving directly to PACs or candidates.

Says Doug Ellis, Assistant Director at the state Public Disclosure Commission, “The state never had a prohibition on corporate spending. We didn’t have restrictions similar to the federal laws.”

Ellis explains that corporations and unions can give directly to candidates and PACs in Washington State, “with full disclosure.”

Before Democrats condemn the ruling as a blessing for the GOP, they should note that  free corporate reign in Washington state has given us a Democratic governor, and Democratic control of both state houses.
Filed under
Show Comments