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No Surprise Here: Disclosure of Unlimited Campaign Money Rejected by GOP-Led Filibuster

July 17, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

The big-money usurption of American democracy has taken another step forward. By a vote of 51-44, the Senate last night voted along party lines to uphold a filibuster the 2012 DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would require corporations, unions and Super PAC that run political ads to release the names of their donors who give more than $10,000 to support a campaign. Just ten years after President Bush signed into law the “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act” (McCain-Feingold), putting limits on independent campaign spending and requiring disclosure in ads, simple disclosure of unlimited campaign spending has become a bitter, highly-politicized issue.

Even the majority-Republican-appointed Supreme Court in their Citizens United decision, which liberalized campaign finance laws and allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited dollars on elections, supported disclosure of donors. By an 8-1 majority, the Court voted in favor of disclosure, arguing that, “disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” The Supreme Court stated that there is no constitutional inpediment to disclosure requirements and that there is no evidence that such requirements chill speech or expression.

The public widely support disclosure of big-money donors as well. According to polling conducting by anti-campaign-finance-regulation-group the Center for Competitive Politics, 87 percent of those polled agree with the 2012 DISCLOSE Act’s requirement that the identities of people or organization donating over $10,000 should be publicly disclosed.

The reason this bill can’t pass appears to be more about a lack of independence from corporations and unions than any sort of reasoned, fact-based analysis. This is underscored by an op-ed yesterday co-authored by two former Republican Senators, Chuck Hagel and Warren Rudman. The pair, who left the Senate before the secretive unlimited spending really exploded (Rudman in ‘93 and Hagel in 2009), called for every senator to support the DISCLOSE Act. “This legislation treats trade unions and corporations equally and gives neither party an advantage. It is good for Republicans and it is good for Democrats. Most important, it is good for the American people.”

The Sunlight Foundation has a great video showing several current senators who in the not-so-distant past were vocal supporters of money-in-politics transparency, but in recent days have flip-flopped hard on the issue.

To be clear, the Democrats are far from immune to criticism for their treatment of the DISCLOSE Act. For almost a full year after the SCOTUS’s Citizens United decision, the Democrats had a near veto-proof Senate majority, a majority in the House, and Obama in the White House. During that time they managed to enact several major and contentious bills. If they actually wanted the DISCLOSE Act to be the law, they could have done a lot more to drum up support. But again, this isn’t about good policy, it’s about independence from big money, and the Democrats don’t have that any more than the Republicans.

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  • eth111 07/20/2012 7:22am

    The problem is not money in politics, it is politics in money. There is no business or financial transaction that does not have Mordoor on the Potomac intervening in it. In a truly civil society, one does not allow a central controlling authority to dictate the terms of all transactions at the point of a gun.
    Before you criticize the callousness of the previous sentence, please realize that enforcement through physical violence, or the threat thereof, is the only mechanism by which the State controls life.
    The spending that you are lamenting is not only completely offensive, but mischaracterized. The issue is that there is political influence (control of other people) that is for sale. We have allowed Leviathan to become much too large and powerful.

  • mouseissue 07/22/2012 4:53pm

    And, therefore, we MUST reign in this Leviathan at EVERY opportunity.

    Almost every time the gov’t promises to give us “something”, it’s ALWAYS at the expense of our freedom.
    This supports the old adage, “There ain’t no free lunch!”.

    As time goes by, we have more entitlements and less less freedom.
    This is EXACTLY how Hitler grabbed Germany by her throat in the last century.
    Sadly, history has an uncanny way of repeating itself.

    Just imagine a day when our freedom has disappeared in exchange for handouts.
    That day may be closer than we think!

  • dbrisinda 07/25/2012 6:29pm

    The problem with the Disclose Act is that it violates the principles of fairness and equality, as prescribed by the Constitution. It would create the possibility for individuals to be added to a watch-list. It directly attacks the First Amendment and puts in jeopardy free speech rights, which the Constitution guarantees for all citizens.

    The bill requires corporations to disclose, but carves out large exceptions for unions and other groups. It must be fair and equal across the board, and individuals must be protected with appropriate safeguards so they do not become targeted.

    The Disclose Act was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which claimed that it “would inflict unnecessary damage to free speech rights and does not include the proper safeguards to protect Americans’ privacy. The bill would severely impact donor anonymity, especially those donors who give to smaller and more controversial organizations.”

  • dbrisinda 07/25/2012 6:30pm

    Further, large corporate or foundation donors who donate to the tune of millions of dollars, could simply find backdoors to keep their donations secret. While more honest groups and organizations would abide by the law and subsequently potentially be subject to harassment or other illegal punitive measures by establishment institutions.

    To be fair, there are some good things in the Disclose Act. But these are overshadowed by its violations to the Constitution.

    In Alice in Wonderland it is said: “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense, nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrariwise, what is, it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would, you see?”

    They call it the Disclose Act, it is in fact the Disguise Act.

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  • HovsepGloke 08/22/2012 8:09am

    I hope it need to be sorted out earlier.

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  • delia315 09/27/2012 4:27am

    In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come latergoogle

  • mar1us91 06/26/2013 2:56pm

    The Supreme Court stated that there is no constitutional inpediment to disclosure requirements and that there is no evidence that such requirements chill speech or expression. jocuri logice

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