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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.

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Boom Years for Congress

December 27, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Between 1984 and 2009, the average net worth of American families has decreased by about .7 percent. But for the folks in Washington that we elect year after year to make laws for us and spend our money, these past few decades haven't been so bad. Over the same time period that average Americans experienced a slight decrease in their net worth, members of Congress, on average, have enjoyed a increase in their worth of about 159 percent.

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For decades, the least democratic federal legal institution in the United States has been custom tailoring the body of laws that have the most profound influence on the functioning of our democracy. In 1976 the Supreme Court ruled that political donations are a form of speech and deserve First Amendment protections. In 2010 they ruled that corporations are people and gave them power to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections without having to disclose anything. A new constitutional amendment in the Senate seeks to regain control of campaign finance laws for Congress and state legislature.

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In my article yesterday refuting the claims Republicans are making in their attack ads alleging that conservative Democrats have liberal voting records, several people in the comments asked if I was going to address similar falsehoods in Democratic ads. I responded that of course I would if someone could show me an example of a Democratic attack ad that uses data to bolster lies. The suggestion was that I look at Obama's claim that the Chamber of Commerce is funding ads against Democrats with contributions from foreign entities. So let me address that.

Here's what we know about the Chamber:

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Last Tuesday, House Democrats announced that they had made progress in passing HR 5175, the DISCLOSE Act by rewriting the bill to exclude several organizations from its strict disclosure provisions. Among other things, the original bill would have required public organizations to disclose a list of any contributors who have donated more than $600,  as well as to feature a list of their top donors on all political advertisements within 90 days of an election. Additionally, the bill would prohibit government contractors and foreign organizations from funding political advertisements.

Last Tuesday's amendment, however, offered exclusions from the bill's disclosure requirements to organizations meeting oddly specific criteria.

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The DISCLOSE Act and Blogs

May 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

In the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to spend directly on political ads and in unlimited amounts, Democrats in Congress have proposed a legislative solution -- make the corporations paying for ads disclose their identities. It's call the DISCLOSE Act, or the "Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act," and it's been getting hearings in House and Senate committees in preparation for action on the floor.

An interesting issue was raised at one of the hearings recently by Attorney William McGinley. The bill, he warned, could lead to Federal Election Committee gaining new power to regulate political blogs.

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TPM reports on an emerging strategy for corporations that want to use the recent Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling to funnel unlimited amounts of cash to congressional candidates without having to reveal their identity and expose themselves to public backlash. But there is already a bill in Congress to thwart the strategy.

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Democrats Preview Citizens United Bill

February 12, 2010 - by Eric Naing

While others have proposed unrealistic constitutional amendments to counter the Citizens United decision, two top Democrats have finally unveiled the party's official response limiting the influence of corporate money in campaigns.

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Congress Links

February 4, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Congress is clearing out ahead of an expected snow storm today but lawmakers did manage to accomplish a few things before skipping town. Here are a few articles and blog posts on note from today:

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Two liberal House members yesterday triggered what could be a “nuclear option” in dealing with the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision: a constitutional amendment.

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Congress Links

February 2, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Despite being a slow day in Congress, it was a busy day on Capitol Hill. Here's a look at what you might have missed: Sen. John Kerry [D, MA] has joined Sen. Arlen Specter [D, PA] in calling for a constitutional amendment in response to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision lifting limits on corporate cash in campaigns. (The Hill) A group of centrist Senate Democrats including Sen. Jim Webb [D, VA], Sen. Mary Landrieu [D, LA], Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] and Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] ...

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The Week In Review

January 29, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Congress felt like the center of the universe this week with the State of the Union on Wednesday, continuing negotiations on a number of issues and even a couple tough votes going down. Here's what we've been up to here at OpenCongress:

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Congress Links

January 28, 2010 - by Eric Naing

With the State of the Union behind us, Congress can get back to work. Most of the big-ticket items on Congress' agenda have been on hold until after the speech. Unfortunately, it not clear if Congress knows what it's going to do now:

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