Corporations are being urged by fundraisers to use the shared megaphone of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, a political action group founded this year by former Bush White House deputy Karl Rove. Together, the two groups and their affiliate, the American Action Network, have pledged to raise $127 million, most of it from business interests, to elect GOP candidates in 2010.
President Obama dispatched his aides to work with Congress to tighten the rules after the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Obama and Democratic leaders, who rely more heavily on unions for campaign donations, say the public deserves to know which specific corporations are bankrolling an ad that may conceal its goal and twist the facts.
"What we are facing is no less than a potential corporate takeover of our elections," Obama warned last month. "What is at stake is no less than the integrity of our democracy."
The Democrats' Disclose Act proposal, released in early May, would require chief executives to appear for a few seconds in campaign ads they finance, saying they personally endorse the message. Umbrella groups would have to list the top five corporate donors for an ad.
Eugene Scalia, attorney for the Chamber of Commerce, said the requirement that chief executives appear in the ads is aimed directly at the risk-averse corporate manager who doesn't want to irritate customers or shareholders, and doesn't want to be personally vilified either.
As the president once told Representative Peter DeFazio: "Don't think we're not keeping score, brother."