Jan 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: Senators propose bill to ban corporate PACs

Jon Ossoff and Mark Kelly are seen in side-by-side photos.
Sens. Jon Ossoff and Mark Kelly. Photos: Chip Somodevilla (left), Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) will soon propose a bill prohibiting for-profit corporations from establishing and managing political action committees, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The introduction of "The Ban Corporate PACs Act" comes amid heightened scrutiny on Capitol Hill regarding money in politics, including efforts to bar companies from influencing political campaigns and federal elections. It would likely face a court challenge and First Amendment concerns.

  • Many Democrats — particularly presidential candidates — have long pledged not to accept money from corporate political action committees as a form of virtue-signaling.
  • But as Axios' Lachlan Markay points out, while corporate PACs are getting huge attention amid bipartisan tacks towards political populism, they actually provide a relatively small share of the money fueling federal political contests.
  • Both parties are seeing success through their grassroots fundraising — and tailoring strategies accordingly.

Details: In addition to banning for-profit corporations from establishing and managing PACs, the bill would:

  • Eliminate the ability of for-profit corporations or PACs to solicit contributions from corporate stockholders.
  • Require existing corporate PACs affected by the act to be terminated and funds be fully disbursed within one year after its enactment.

Between the lines: Both senators are newly elected and face challenging political environments in their home states.

  • Kelly and Ossoff believe PACs are often established by corporations to influence policy.
  • They also believe the nature of their creation allow them to skirt the law, by making contributions to political candidates at a higher legal limit than those placed on contributions from individuals.

The backdrop: The bill comes after Kelly and Ossoff recently introduced a bill barring members of Congress, their spouses and dependent family members from buying and selling stocks while the member holds office.

  • That bill is similar to other Republican efforts to limit or ban members of Congress from trading stocks, something House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says he's interested in, if Republicans win the majority.
  • However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday discounted the need for both bills, saying she's “always in favor of trusting our members."
  • She added that insider trading is a matter for the Justice Department.

Both Kelly and Ossoff say they refused to accept corporate PAC donations during their recent election campaigns.

  • They did accept donations from third-party PACs, which often allow corporate contributions.
  • The two senators are among only 10 sitting members of Congress to put their own stock portfolios in blind trusts, according to an investigation by Insider.

Read the bill.

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