Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Sen. Jamie Raskin. (File)

Raskin will introduce bill in response to Citizens United

ANNAPOLIS – The only Maryland state senator who doubles as a constitutional law professor said he will introduce legislation this week to limit the ability of corporations to contribute to political campaigns despite a Supreme Court ruling that said such restrictions violate the First Amendment right to free speech.

Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, whose opposition to the court’s Citizens United decision has been a staple of his Democratic congressional campaign, said his bill passes constitutional muster because it does not foreclose political contributions from corporations so long as the donation has been approved by individual shareholders holding a majority of the corporate stock.

The measure would bar corporations from donating if a majority of their stock is held not by individuals but by institutional investors, such as state and local pension funds, insurance companies, universities and nonprofit organizations statutorily barred from taking political positions, Raskin said Monday.

“The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United turned every corporate treasury in the United States into a potential political slush fund,” said Raskin, D-Montgomery.

“CEOs are spending other people’s money to support the candidates of their choice,” added Raskin, who is running for the Democratic nomination in the 8th Congressional District. “Millions of American shareholders have a right to choose for ourselves which candidates to support with our own money and investments.”

But attorney Shelton H. “Shelly” Skolnick, who is seeking the Republican nomination, said the current presidential campaign belies the concern that corporate money flowing from the Citizens United decision has damaged the American political system. Skolnick cited Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ success despite disdaining corporate donations and Republican hopeful Jeb Bush’s struggles despite his early and strong corporate backing.

“Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush show that we don’t have anything to worry about” from Citizens United, Skolnick said.

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the high court held in 2010 that direct corporate donations to political campaigns are constitutionally protected speech.

“Corporations and other associations, like individuals, contribute to the discussion, debate and the dissemination of information and ideas that the First Amendment seeks to foster,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. “The court has thus rejected the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not ‘natural persons.’”

Raskin, who teaches at American University’s Washington College of Law, said his to-be-introduced “Shareholders United Act” complies with the Citizens United decision insofar as Kennedy went on to write that the “procedures of corporate democracy” can act as a check on a company’s political involvement despite its right to free speech.

For example, Kennedy said corporations can be required to disclose publicly their political contributions, and Raskin said his bill would require corporations to disclose their contributions on their websites within 48 hours.

Raskin is seeking the U.S. House seat Rep. Christopher Van Hollen is vacating to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat who is retiring. On the campaign trail, Raskin often derides what he calls the evil of corporate money in political campaigns, which he says has been fostered by Citizens United.

“In Maryland, we can set a new path for states to rein in corporate power and restore both real political democracy and real shareholder democracy,” Raskin said of his coming legislation.

ANNAPOLIS – The only Maryland state senator who doubles as a constitutional law professor said he will introduce legislation this week to limit the ability of corporations to contribute to political campaigns despite a Supreme Court ruling that said such restrictions violate the First Amendment right to free speech.

Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, whose opposition to the court’s Citizens United decision has been a staple of his Democratic congressional campaign, said his bill passes constitutional muster because it does not foreclose political contributions from corporations so long as the donation has been approved by individual shareholders holding a majority of the corporate stock.

The measure would bar corporations from donating if a majority of their stock is held not by individuals but by institutional investors, such as state and local pension funds, insurance companies, universities and non-profit organizations statutorily barred from taking political positions, Raskin said Monday.

“The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United turned every corporate treasury in the United States into a potential political slush fund,” said Raskin, D-Montgomery.

“CEOs are spending other people’s money to support the candidates of their choice,” added Raskin, who is running for the Democratic nomination in the 8th Congressional District. “Millions of American shareholders have a right to choose for ourselves which candidates to support with our own money and investments.”

But attorney Shelton H. “Shelly” Skolnick, who is seeking the Republican nomination, said the current presidential campaign belies the concern that corporate money flowing from the Citizens United decision has damaged the American political system. Skolnick cited Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ success despite disdaining corporate donations and Republican hopeful Jeb Bush’s struggles despite his early and strong corporate backing.

“Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush show that we don’t have anything to worry about” from Citizens United, Skolnick said.

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the high court held in 2010 that direct corporate donations to political campaigns is constitutionally protected speech.

“Corporations and other associations, like individuals, contribute to the discussion, debate and the dissemination of information and ideas that the First Amendment seeks to foster,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the 5-4 majority. “The court has thus rejected the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not ‘natural persons.’”

Raskin, who teaches at American University’s Washington College of Law, said his to-be-introduced “Shareholders United Act” complies with the Citizens United decision insofar as Kennedy went on to state that the “procedures of corporate democracy” can act as a check on a company’s political involvement despite its right to free speech.

For example, Kennedy said corporations can be required to disclose publicly their political contributions, and Raskin said his bill would require corporations to disclose their contributions on their websites within 48 hours.

Raskin is seeking the U.S. House seat Christopher Van Hollen, D-Md., is vacating to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who is retiring. On the campaign trail, Raskin often derides what he calls the evil of corporate money in political campaigns, which he says has been fostered by Citizens United.

“In Maryland, we can set a new path for states to rein in corporate power and restore both real political democracy and real shareholder democracy,” Raskin said of his coming legislation.

1 of 1 article

0 articles remaining

Grow your business intelligence with The Daily Record. Register now for more article access.