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Scott Brown Is Not the Missing Piece in Passing the DISCLOSE Act

Ever since Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) indicated he would vote “yes” on financial regulatory reform, a number of government transparency advocacy groups have been hoping he might be their golden ticket to getting the DISCLOSE Act through a seemingly intractable Senate. The groups, which include Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Public Citizen and the League of Women Voters, sent a letter to Brown’s office on Monday asking the senator to keep his pledge to “restore the real checks and balances in Washington” by helping pass the DISCLOSE Act and increasing accountability and transparency in campaign finance.

Today, however, Brown told the groups they shouldn’t count on his support:

No matter how one feels about McCain-Feingold, at least that was an honest attempt to reform campaign finance laws that would not have gone into effect until after the next election cycle. The DISCLOSE Act does the opposite – it changes the rules in the middle of the game to provide a tactical advantage to the majority party.

Brown goes on to argue that the bill provides special treatment to labor unions and some large nonprofits, despite their political nature. He is right to point out that the DISCLOSE Act was subject to some shady carve-outs, most notably at the hands of the National Rifle Association, in order to pass the House.

His claim that because it “changes the rules in the middle of the game,” DISCLOSE is a partisan bill designed to provide a tactical advantage to Democrats seems less persuasive. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United* *ruling also changed the rules of the game in this election cycle, and the DISCLOSE Act was designed to counteract some of the outsize influence that third-party advocacy groups now plan to wield in the run-up to November.

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