DISCLOSE Act Returns
Next week, the U.S. Senate is slated to take up S. 3369, the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, sponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). This is arguably the most critically important transparency legislation in years and absolutely essential to the integrity of our election system in a post-Citizens United era. But before debate can even begin on the bill, the Senate will have to overcome a likely filibuster by Republicans, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The DISCLOSE Act of 2012 would go a long way in closing disclosure loopholes that are allowing an explosion of secret contributions aimed at influencing your vote and our elected officials. It would require, among other things, any covered organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours detailing the amount and nature of each expenditure over $1,000 and the names of all of its donors who gave $10,000 or more. Transfer provisions in the bill prevent donors from using shell organizations to hide their activities.
Like most Americans, CREW believes voters ought to know who is trying to influence our elections, which is why we recently exposed how health insurance giant Aetna tried to secretly funnel more than $7 million in contributions through two conduits – American Action Network and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Republican opposition is baffling, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s conclusive rejection in Citizens United – by 8 to 1 – of claims that disclosure of campaign spending is inconsistent with the First Amendment.
So, before the Senate takes up the bill on Monday, we thought it’s a good time to stroll down memory lane and visit some of the Republicans who were for disclosure before they were against it:
Sen. Scott Brown: “A genuine campaign finance reform effort would include increased transparency, accountability and would provide a level playing field to everyone.”
Sen. John Cornyn: “I think the system needs more transparency, so people can more easily reach their own conclusions.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions: “I don’t like it when a large source of money is out there funding ads and is unaccountable… To the extent we can, I tend to favor disclosure.”
Sen. Susan Collins: “Sen. Collins…believes that it is important that any future campaign finance laws include strong transparency provisions so the American public knows who is contributing to a candidate’s campaign, as well as who is funding communications in support of or in opposition to a political candidate or issue.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell: “We need to have real disclosure. And so what we ought to do is broaden the disclosure to include at least labor unions and tax-exempt business associations and trial lawyers so that you include the major political players in America. Why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?”
Sen. Lamar Alexander: “I support campaign finance reform, but to me that means individual contributions, free speech and full disclosure. In other words, any individual can give whatever they want as long as it is disclosed every day on the Internet. Otherwise, you restrict free speech and favor super-rich candidates -- candidates with famous names, the media and special interest groups, all of whom can spend unlimited money.”
Sen. John McCain: “This is not a partisan issue. It should not advantage one party over the other. What reform does is create transparency, equality, and participation, and inspire confidence in those we represent. The strength and real muscle in this fight lies with the American people. During the long battle in the Senate to pass campaign finance reform, we called on the American public to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. They answered, and the impact was astounding.”
Will we see any of these Senators standing up to support the DISCLOSE Act next week? We’re not holding our breath. Regardless, it’s a fight worth having to shed light on the perilous state of our campaign finance system.
CREW will be taking active steps next week to highlight the floor proceedings. We hope you’ll join us.