The Issue: Campaign Reform
The Initiative: “We Want the DISCLOSE Act” is a project of Senators Patrick Leahy, Chuck Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse.
Background: Later today, the Senate will vote on the DISCLOSE Act. According to The Hill, “Democrats had revised the legislation in an effort to attract Republican support but so far not a single GOP senator has signed on.” The bill is expected to be blocked by Republicans.
According to David Dayen at Firedog Lake, once the bill is voted down, the sponsors plan to hold the floor and talk about the bill late into the night to bring attention to the issue and castigate Republicans: “The goal is to force a second vote Tuesday, but more than that, it’s to shed a spotlight on runaway spending in elections, and the secret donors who would rather fund that work out of the public eye.”
The Senate version of the DISCLOSE Act does two things: it creates reporting requirements for super PACs, corporations, unions and nonprofit organizations that donate to political campaigns; and requires political ads to feature disclaimers by the top officials of the funding groups, similar to the stand-by-your-ad mandates required of candidates in their ads. (“I’m ___________ and I approve this message.”) The hope is that the disclaimer requirement will make super PACs more accountable for the content of their ads.
The Sunlight Foundation has been advocating for transparency in political contributions and political advertising since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision made it possible for corporations and others to donate unlimited sums of money to political action committees with little or no reporting requirements. The DISCLOSE act mirrors Sunlight’s Stop Undisclosed Payments in Elections from Ruining Public Accountability Act (the SUPERPAC Act) and Sunlight is in favor of both the House and the Senate versions of the bill.
Although the Senate bill is a stripped down version of the House bill, Senator Schumer (D-NY) believes it has a better chance with Republicans, who opposed a similar bill last Congress because they said it limited people’s First Amendment rights. He told The Hill last week, “It is now disclosure and disclaimer. Plain and simple. And that makes it have a better chance of passing.”
If you want to learn more about the Act, visit the "We Want the DISCLOSE Act" website. Over 87,000 have signed their petition.
Find out more about the organizations and senators supporting and opposing this bill, and weigh in with your thoughts at Pop Vox.