Friday, January 14, 2011

Citizens United and campaign spending

The Legislature is rolling and we've been trying to get up to pace. Our first significant hearing was Thursday morning when the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee considered Senate File 3 Campaign finance - organizations.

The measure will bring state law into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. FEC. The decision opened the door to allow corporations to tap their treasuries for independent expenditure campaigns deployed to attack or support individual candidates. We're pressing for amendments SF3 to improve disclosure requirements.

Business brings annual attack on co-employee immunity laws

On Friday, Jan. 14, the Senate Labor Committee heard final testimony on Senate File 61 - Co-employee immunity. The measure blocks liability lawsuits when people are injured at work due to wanton, willful actions of a fellow worker or supervisor. Under current law, if a supervisor orders a worker into an area known to be unsafe and in violation of safety rules and the worker gets hurt, he or she can sue the co-employee. Wyoming's Workers Compensation law prevents a worker from suing his or her employee in those cases.

The AFL-CIO, the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association and others opposed it.

Despite dramatic testimony Friday from a Pine Bluffs man whose son was killed on the job due to "wanton and willful" negligence, the committee approved the bill and sent it to the House floor. The measure is supported by mining, oil and gas, trucking and other interests.

Meanwhile, there's more information about Citizens United on the home page of our website: Here's an excerpt:

Corporate spending threatens integrity of elections

Few U.S. Supreme Court decisions of the past 20 years have opened the door for sweeping change in the basics of our democracy as the Citizens United decision of last winter.

In Citizens United, the Court cleared the way for corporations to engage in independent spending to support or oppose candidates in elections at all levels – from the town council to the U.S. Presidency.

Senate File 3--Campaign finance-organizations would amend Wyoming’s statutes to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision is under consideration. In testimony to the Senate’s Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee on Thursday, January 13, 2011, the ESPC provided a brief analysis of the decision and its implications for state elections. The ESPC also suggested a series of amendments to the bill to require expansive disclosure of independent expenditures by corporations, unions, and other professional organizations. The amendments also would prohibit spending by corporations based on foreign soil.

Eight of the nine Supreme Court Justices supported disclosure. In order for voters to make informed judgments about what they see in campaign advertisements and literature, they need to know who paid for them.

We're developing more information on Citizens United that will be posted on the website.