Monday, April 30, 2012

A Corporation's a Person, No Matter How Large

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Just an average citizen who wants to be heard
  • Just an average citizen who wants to be heard

Like something out of an inverted children's fable, a bill that would now give corporations the benefits of acting like a little guy, without the frustrating limitations, passed a committee this morning and is fast on its way to the House floor.

In its original form, the bill, which has already passed the Senate, repealed limits on the total amount of money individual candidates can receive from political action committees (PACs) and corporations. After an amendment brought in committee this morning by bill sponsor Rep. Glen Casada, it would do that along with giving corporations the freedom to choose between acting as individuals or PACs when it comes to political contributions.

Tom Humphrey with a good explainer, excerpted after the jump:

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 to 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.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner pressed Casada on the bill and was critical of what he called a "last hour" attempt to get it passed, on what legislators hope will be the last day of the session. Republicans, including Rep. Bill Dunn and Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, wanted assurances from Casada that he would kill the bill if there were any attempts to change it further once it gets to the floor.

As Humphrey notes, given that rules allowing for time and transparency are thrown out the window as the end of session approaches, the bill can be brought up on the floor the same day it passes committee.

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