Advocates Say Midterms Might Breathe Fresh Life Into the DISCLOSE Act
Monday, October 04, 2010 at 4:42 pm
While there’s certainly no longer any chance that the DISCLOSE Act, which fell short of overcoming a GOP filibuster by just one vote the other week in the Senate, will have the chance to unmask the donors behind the large nonprofits, unions and business leagues spending millions in the present election cycle, Meredith McGehee at the Campaign Legal Center argues that those writing the bill’s obituary are acting prematurely:
But the upcoming election is bound to breathe new life into the legislative effort to provide the American people with information about the flood of money — much of it completely anonymous — that is pouring into key races. The flood comes courtesy of the Supreme Court’s shocking decision earlier this year in the Citizens United v. FEC.
Republicans, of course, have already decried the idea of Democrats pushing any legislation during the lame duck session, but they might have a harder time staying unified in their opposition, McGehee notes, if Democrats truly strip the bill down to its essential mission of disclosure:
Senators should face a vote in the lame duck on a revised version which focuses solely on disclosure and drops provisions which have been mischaracterized and exploited by the bill’s opponents, such as the language to put new restrictions on government contractors. It will be that much harder for politicians to vote against a bill that asks for nothing more than the identities of those funneling big money to elect or unseat Members of Congress. The endless attack ads of election season will still be fresh in the minds of Americans when their elected representatives will be asked to vote on whether those paying to run the ads should have to own up to them. It seems a simple question and it is a roll call vote that voters will remember.
With GOP scapegoats — like the ban on large government contractors or companies with 20 percent or greater foreign ownership from participating in election spending — no longer in the picture, advocating against a simple message of disclosure might be that much more politically untenable for moderate Republicans. To illustrate her case for action, McGehee points to a good story from the Washington Monthly back in May about the Chamber of Commerce, which is planning to spend $75 million in the current election cycle:
“[A] large part of what the Chamber sells is political cover. For multibillion-dollar insurers, drug makers, and medical device manufacturers who are too smart and image conscious to make public attacks of their own, the Chamber of Commerce is a friend who will do the dirty work. “I want to give them all the deniability they need,” says [Chamber President Tom] Donahue. That deniability is evidently worth a lot. According to a January article in the National Journal, six insurers alone—Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group, and Wellpoint—pumped up to $20 million into the Chamber last year.”
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