Congressmember Wants to Bar "Criminal" Corporations from Political Spending
January 25, 2015
Ben Johnson / City Pages
Last year a federal judge found oil giant BP's "profit-driven decisions" lead to "gross negligence" resulting in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Currently BP owes additional payments on top of a $4 billion fine it already paid. Despite that, BP found a way to spend nearly $5 million on political lobbying. Now Rep. Keith Ellison has introduced a bill to bar "criminal corporations" from political spending for six years after a conviction for any felony involving dishonesty, breach of trust, or defrauding the government.
Keith Ellison Wants to Bar "Criminal" Corporations from Political Spending
Ben Johnson / City Pages
MINNEAPOLIS (January 22, 2015) -- Last year a federal judge found oil giant BP acted with "profit-driven decisions" that amounted to "gross negligence" resulting in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Currently the corporation is in court arguing over the billions in fines it owes in Clean Water Act violations on top of a $4 billion fine it already paid the federal government stemming from criminal charges.
Despite that, BP found a way to come up with nearly $5 million to spend on lobbying and campaign contributions in 2014. In 2013 it spent more than $8 million.
Yesterday Rep. Keith Ellison introduced a bill that would bar "criminal corporations" like BP from political spending for six years after being convicted of any felony involving dishonesty, breach of trust, or defrauding the United States government.
In a news release Ellison said the Protect Democracy from Criminal Corporations Act was a way to combat influence corporations gained after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010, which effectively allowed corporations to spend unlimited money on political causes.
"Until we restore the power to people and reverse the decision in Citizens United, companies that break the law shouldn't be allowed to flood our democracy with dirty money," Ellison wrote.
When we reached out to his office yesterday they would only comment on background regarding the new bill.
A search of Ellison's top donors did not reveal any major contributions from so-called criminal corporations. Throughout his career he has been backed mostly by unions and law firms.
Read the bill for yourself below:
Protect Democracy From Criminal Corporations Act
To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit criminal corporations from making disbursements of funds in connection with a campaign for election for Federal, State, or local office.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
This Act may be cited as the "Protect Democracy From Criminal Corporations Act."
SEC. 2. PROHIBITING POLITICAL SPENDING BY CRIMINAL CORPORATIONS.
Title III of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (52 U.S.C. 30101 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
"SEC. 325. PROHIBITING POLITICAL SPENDING BY CRIMINAL CORPORATIONS.
"(a) PROHIBITION. —
"(1) IN GENERAL.
To the extent that corporations are permitted under law to make a disbursement of funds in connection with a campaign for election for Federal, State, or local office, including a disbursement consisting of a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, an independent expenditure, or a disbursement for an electioneering communication (as defined in section 304(f)(3)), it shall be unlawful for a corporation which is a criminal corporation, or for any separate segregated fund established under section 316(b)(2)(C) by a criminal corporation, to make such a disbursement during the applicable period described in paragraph (2).
"(2) APPLICABLE PERIOD DESCRIBED.
In paragraph (1), the 'applicable period' with respect to a criminal corporation is the 6-year period, which begins
"(A) in the case of a criminal corporation described in paragraph (1) of subsection (b), on the date on which the corporation is finally convicted of the offense described in such paragraph; or
"(B) in the case of a criminal corporation described in paragraph (2) of subsection (b), on the date on which the corporation enters into an agreement described in such paragraph.
"(b) CRIMINAL CORPORATION DEFINED.
In this section, the term 'criminal corporation' means a corporation —
"(1) which has been convicted of violating section 371 of title 18, United States Code (relating to conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States), or any other felony involving dishonesty or a breach of trust; or
"(2) which has been charged with violating section 371 of such title or with another felony involving dishonesty or a breach of trust and has entered into a nonprosecution agreement, a deferred prosecution agreement, or any other agreement with the Attorney General to resolve the charge, if the terms and conditions of the agreement include a requirement that the corporation make a payment equal to or greater than $1,000,000.".
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE.
The amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply with respect to a corporation which is convicted of the offense described in paragraph (1) of section 325(b) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (as added by subsection (a)), or which enters into an agreement described in paragraph (2) of such section, on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.
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