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Democrats Say PAC Bill Makes Corporations ‘Super People’

News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE – Republicans are pushing a last-minute change to weaken campaign finance laws and make it easier for corporations to give to political campaigns.
House Bill 3281 would remove disclosure rules that require corporations to register as political action committees in order to give to candidates. Additionally, the bill removes aggregate PAC limits that prohibit candidates from receiving all of their funding from PACs and, for the first time, would allow insurance companies to donate to candidates.
“Under these new rules, corporations aren’t just ‘people,’ they are super-people that receive special privileges and access that everyday Tennesseans can’t get,” Forrester said. “Instead of using the last few minutes of this legislative session to put Tennesseans back to work, we’re seeing an extreme move that hurts the working and middle class families by putting special interests ahead of our families’ best interests.”
The law, if passed as amended by Casada, would allow corporations to adhere to the PAC donation limits, currently $10,700 per candidate, but would allow them to donate as individuals, effectively giving corporations a “best of both worlds” situation.
“If Rep. Casada is dead set on treating corporations like people, why not apply the same contribution limits to them as we do to human beings?” said Forrester.
Background
During the discussion of the amendment, Rep. Casada either misrepresented or outright lied about the impetus for this last minute legislation, namely, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. Casada stated that the law passed in 2011 requiring corporations to file as PACs in order to donate to candidates was a “mistake” and was “out of compliance” with the Supreme Court decision. This is absolutely false. Citizens United addressed Independent Expenditures, and expressly confirmed that bans on corporations donating to individuals are still legal.
Video: Rep. Casada says during the House State and Local Government Committee that this amendment would put the state in compliance with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wswJdGVOJMQ
Court Unlikely To Stop With Citizens United – Eliza Carney, National Journal Dec 18, 2010
“The court’s dramatic reversal does not threaten the existing ban on direct corporate and union campaign contributions. So while those players may now lavish money from their treasuries on independent campaign expenditures, they still may not donate directly to candidates.”
Life After Citizens United – NCSL: “the ruling does not directly affect state laws”

Repeal of Aggregate PAC Limit Launched from House Committee

Legislation that repeals limits on the total amount of political money lawmakers can take from political action committees and corporations was approved in a committee this morning and sent on toward a House floor vote later today.
The bill, HB3281, was approved in the Senate earlier this year, but had been stalled in the House State and Local Government Committee. Sponsor Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove, at one point took it “off notice,” which is usually an indication that a bill is being abandoned.
But today – which lawmakers hope will be the final day of the 107th General Assembly – Casada brought the bill before the committee. It was approved on a 6-4 vote, sending it on to a vote of the full House. In the final days of a session, normal rules don’t apply, so the bill can be sent to a floor vote on the same day it comes out of committee.
Casada also successfully added a new amendment — not included in the Senate version — that gives corporations more freedom in how to structure their political donations.
Basically, they can opt to act as individuals, which means they are bound by lower limits on how much can be given to a single candidate but then don’t have to disclose the donation themselves. Or, they can opt to be treated as a PAC, meaning higher amounts can be donated to a single candidate, but they would have disclose the donations.
“Money is speech. You limit it, you limit our ability to reach out,” said Casada.
Currently, state law says legislative candidates can accept no more than $107,200 per election – or $214,400 in a primary and general election combined – from PACS. The bill repeals that “aggregate limit” so candidates can take as much money as PACs and corporations, which are treated like PACs under the law, will give them.
The amount a PAC or corporation can give in each individual contribution is not changed by the bill. A PAC can give an individual candidate for the House $7,100 per election; a candidate for the Senate $10,700.
In contrast, an individual person cannot give more than $1,400 to a candidate per election.
Democrats criticized both the bill itself and what House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner called the “last hour” push to enact it into law. Turner said the bill will lessen the importance of the “average guy” and increase the importance of big corporations and their PACs in electing legislators.

Note: A Registry of Election Finance memo on the current law and limits, as revised last year, is HERE.

Bill Repealing PAC Limits Taken ‘Off Notice’

A Senate-passed bill repealing the present limit on how much total money legislative candidates can take from political action committees – currently $107,200 per election – was taken “off notice” in a House Committee Tuesday.
The move, which typically means a bill is dead for the year, was taken by sponsor Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove. He said afterwards that he made the the decision on his own because “I’m just covered up” with other legislative work. But Casada said he will consider pushing the bill anyway if House leaders ask him to do so.
The bill was initially sponsored in the House by House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville. Maggart said she signed the bill over to Casada because of his expertise in the area – Casada sponsored a bill last year that allowed direct corporate campaign contributions to Tennessee candidates – and trusts his decision on whether or not to push the measure this year.

Senate Votes to Repeal Aggregate PAC Limit, 17-12

The Senate voted Monday to repeal the current limit — $214,400 — on the total amount of money legislators can accept from political action committees during an election cycle.
Repeal of the aggregate limit on PAC money came over the objections of Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, who said it will add to the public perception that “we are only here for the special interests; that we are only here for the people who can make these contributions.”
The sponsor, Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, merely explained the bill and did not respond to Democratic criticisms.
Besides the aggregate PAC limit, also epeals a provision in current law that prohibits insurance companies from making direct contributions to state candidates. Watson said that the insurance company ban was inadvertently overlooked last year when the Legislature voted to allow corporations generally to make donations to legislator campaigns.
Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, offered an amendment to remove the aggregate PAC limitation from the bill, leaving the provision on insurance companies. He said repealing the PAC provision “takes us in the wrong direction” from “trying to keep down the influence of money in what we do here.”
Haynes motion was killed on a 17-12 vote. The bill itself was then approved 17-12. It now goes to the House.

Flush With PAC Money, Republicans Move to Repeal PAC Money Limit

With Tennessee political action committees growing in numbers and pouring millions of dollars into legislative campaigns, Republican lawmakers are proposing to repeal the limits in current law on how much PAC money they can accept.
Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, says SB3654 is a logical follow through to legislation enacted last year that authorized direct corporate contributions to state candidates and treats corporations as if they were PACs insofar as disclosing donations goes.
Last year’s law also raised the limits on how much PACs and individuals can donate to Tennessee candidates and provides those limits can be raised annually as inflation increases, a so-called “indexing” provision.
But the 2011 law, pushed by Republicans over objections from some Democrats, left intact the “aggregate limit” on how much PACs can give to candidates. It did raise the aggregate limit for legislative candidates from $75,000 per election to $107,200 — the latter figure being subject to annual increases through indexing.
“With indexing, you reach a point where that limit (on overall PAC donations) is, for lack of a better term, too limiting,” said Watson in an interview.

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