House Democratic leadership is aiming to pass its campaign spending bill on Thursday, while Democrats are defending it from criticism that it includes loopholes for special interests.
The Daily Caller reported Monday that the legislation, called the DISCLOSE Act, shields labor unions from many of its requirements.
For example, restrictions on companies that received government bailouts during the financial crisis apply to businesses, but not unions: Under the DISCLOSE Act, General Motors can’t tell you who to vote for, but the United Auto Workers union can.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, said the restriction does not apply to unions because bailout money was paid directly to companies, and only indirectly benefited unionized employees of those companies.
Also, government contractors with contracts of more than $7 million are not permitted to engage in express advocacy. Unions that receive their dues from the taxpayer-funded salaries of public sector employees face no such restriction.
Van Hollen’s spokeswoman said unions would face the same requirements if they received government contracts of more than $7 million. She further said current campaign spending law regulates government contractors more heavily because of past instances of corruption in the federal procurement process. Van Hollen’s legislation similarly targets the procurement process, the spokeswoman said.
The bill includes strict rules on foreign-owned businesses engaging in express advocacy. The rules are so strict, critics fear, they will ensnare American companies with American employees and revenue. For instance, if a foreign entity owns, directly or indirectly, 20 percent or more of a company’s shares, that company isn’t allowed to urge citizens to vote for candidates, even if it’s based in the U.S.
No such restrictions are placed on unions.
The Van Hollen spokeswoman said it is uncommon for unions with foreign ties to spend money on domestic elections.
The Daily Caller revealed that House Administration Committee Chairman Robert Brady told other lawmakers in private conversations that he was being kept in the dark on details of the legislation as it was crafted by the White House, Van Hollen and New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer.
The Van Hollen spokeswoman noted that a broad framework for the legislation was released publicly in February and that many of the government watchdog organizations in Washington were consulted regarding what the legislation should contain.
The Daily Caller also reported Monday that some experts believe the law will cause chaos on the campaign trail because it goes into effect 30 days after passage, leaving the Federal Election Commission little time to implement the law.
The Van Hollen spokesman said the FEC will have sufficient time to implement the law.