January 29, 2010
State of the Union
I was encouraged that President Obama made job creation and the economy a central theme of his State of the Union Address. I was particularly heartened to hear his proposal to take $30 billion in repaid TARP funds for job creation efforts. In November, I wrote to the President, urging him to use excess TARP funds for just these purposes.
I wrote to him again in January, arguing that Public Law 110-343, which created the TARP program, already authorizes the President to act without further Congressional authority. The President has the opportunity to take swift, bold action. He does not need to wait for Congress to act. He does not have to provide another opportunity for a small number of Senators to hold up important and necessary action. I will continue to encourage him to take this path. I have also asked that he use one dollar of TARP funds to pay down the national debt for every dollar used to create jobs. We need the short term action but we cannot lose sight of the long term problems created by excessive borrowing.
The President proposes to direct TARP funds to community banks for the specific purpose of providing it to small businesses. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and if they cannot hire, or worse, are forced to lay off employees, our economy and our neighborhoods suffer. This policy decision will directly impact employment by providing small businesses with access to funds so they can retain employees and hire additional workers. Government used these funds to stabilize Wall Street and they should be used to help Main Street too. This money is needed NOW to create jobs and there is no need to wait for additional legislation. The authority is already in place to take this action.
Supreme Court Ruling
I wrote last week about my disappointment over the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission (FEC). This week I filed legislation requiring a shareholder vote before any corporate general treasury funds can be spent on political activity.
Last week's Supreme Court ruling allows corporations to use general treasury funds for independent political expenditures. This decision clearly has the potential to flood the market with unlimited election ads. We should be moving in the exact opposite direction limiting outside influence in our democratic elections process, not enhancing it.
My legislation, the Shareholder Protection Act, H.R. 4537, would ensure that shareholders' political interests are accurately represented by their corporation; require an authorizing vote of a majority of shareholders before general treasury funds can be spent on political activities and require quarterly notification to all shareholders on corporations' contributions or expenditures for political activities. I am encouraged that US PIRG and Public Citizen support my proposal.
This Supreme Court ruling has the very real potential to dramatically alter the level of corporate participation in political campaigns. Congress can and should take action to ensure that the voice of the voters is not overshadowed by corporate influence. Candidates should be able to appeal to voters in a truly free and open marketplace of ideas. My legislation is a step toward addressing this problem, and I am also working with my colleagues to develop a comprehensive approach to this issue.
Next week the House is expected to consider PAY-Go legislation.