published Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Tennessee: Berke bill requires corporations to disclose political contributions

NASHVILLE — State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said he is sponsoring a bill that would require corporations to publicly disclose all political donations in Tennessee.

The bill is response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling affecting corporate campaign spending.

“We have huge corporations laying off workers, and now they can turn around and spend unlimited sums on political campaigns,” Sen. Berke said in a news release. “The priority for these companies should be saving jobs.”

In a ruling last week, the U.S. Supreme Court freed up corporations to spend unlimited money on political campaigns, including those that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a specific candidate.

The Berke legislation comes as some state Republican lawmakers begin a legislative push on a bill that would let corporations contribute directly to candidates themselves.

If Sen. Berke’s bill became law, it would require a corporation to file a disclosure statement that includes the names and addresses of all corporate officers and directors, addresses of lobbyists employed by the corporation, a detailed list of lobbying expenses and contracts the company has with state or local governments.

Another provision would require corporations, which could include international giants such as Exxon, to provide the names and addresses of all shareholders. That could involve thousands of people, and, in an interview, Sen. Berke said that is intentional.

“There is a real move by people to open up more money in the political sphere. I think we should be reducing it instead,” he said. “People don’t want corporations running the political system.”

Under the bill, political campaigns would also be required to include a disclaimer in radio, TV, print and Internet ads paid with corporate money. It would state: “This communication was paid for by (company name) using corporate funds.”

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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