MELISSA BLOCK, host:
There was strong sentiment on Capitol Hill today, too, about the Supreme Court's ruling.
Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): At a time when people are feeling estranged from their democracy, this is going to make it so much the worse. This threatens the viability of our democracy.
BLOCK: That's Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York. While many members of Congress expressed deep concern, others hailed the court's decision as a victory.
NPR's Andrea Seabrook has a sampling of reaction from Capitol Hill.
ANDREA SEABROOK: An unlimited flow of money, an unlimited number of campaign ads anywhere in the country. That's what you'll see, says Senator Schumer, in the wake of today's Supreme Court decision.
Sen. SCHUMER: It's poisonous. It's poisonous to our democracy.
SEABROOK: The court did uphold the restriction prohibiting corporations and unions from making direct campaign contributions. But Schumer said Congress must pass new laws that try to restrain the gusher of cash that's sure to come. Democrats in both chambers, along with some Republicans like Arizona's John McCain, have pledged to come up with new ideas fast. For most Republicans though, today's decision was great news.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): I think the Supreme Court decisions today are a big win for the First Amendment and a step in the right direction.
SEABROOK: House Republican leader John Boehner. In his view, the Constitution's protection of free speech extends to campaign contributions. No organization business, union, whatever should be limited by the government, says Boehner. Instead, he wants groups to disclose every dollar they spend on campaigns.
Rep. BOEHNER: Let the American people decide how much money is enough. Sunshine really does work if you allow it to.
SEABROOK: Then again, this view of free speech gives corporations a giant megaphone, said New Jersey Democrat Rush Holt today. And that could easily reduce the average voter's voice to a squeak. For example, take the congressional district of Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth. It has one television and radio market Louisville and all campaign ads air there, said Yarmuth.
Representative JOHN YARMUTH (Democrat, Kentucky): If a corporation decided to spend $5 or $10 million in my district the last two weeks of the election, they would buy up every spot that was available.
SEABROOK: Leaving no space for Yarmuth or any other candidate local or regional who wanted to run an ad. So any big company, Yarmuth said, could control any election there.
Representative YARMUTH: I mean, they just write a check. I mean, the implications of this are far greater than just the influence that there might be on a particular election. The implications system-wide are huge and dangerous.
SEABROOK: Yarmuth and others would like to overhaul the public financing of elections, so at least voters can easily tell which candidates are accepting help from big corporations and which are not. Another idea several Democrats talked about today was giving corporate shareholders some say over how their company's campaign cash is spent. Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen says lawmakers have to use today's Supreme Court decision to help voters understand how broken the system is.
Representative CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (Democrat, Maryland): This has got to be a wake-up call to every citizen that they cannot allow the big corporations to call the shots on these elections.
SEABROOK: But with this Supreme Court in place, Democrats will have to draft any new campaign finance rules very carefully, lest they too be struck down.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, The Capitol.
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