GOP blocks campaign disclosure bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of wasting time on bills "they know won't pass."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of wasting time on bills "they know won't pass." (Associated Press)

The Senate measure would have required that the names of top donors be made public.

Posted: July 18, 2012

WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans have blocked Democratic-backed legislation requiring organizations pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign ads to disclose their top donors and the amounts they spend.

GOP opposition prevented Democrats from getting the 60 votes needed to bring what is known as the Disclose Act to the Senate floor. The vote Monday was 51-44.

Democrats revived the act during a presidential election campaign in which political action committees and nonprofit organizations, funded by deep-pocketed and largely anonymous contributors, are dominating the airwaves with largely negative political ads.

Another version of the Disclose Act passed the then-Democratic-controlled House in 2010 but was similarly blocked by Republicans in the Senate. Republicans cite First Amendment rights and say the bill favors unions in opposing the legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) accused Democrats of wasting time on bills "they know won't pass but which give them a chance to make a fuss about a problem that doesn't exist and blow a kiss to the unions for good measure."

The bill, which would not have taken effect until January, would have required any organization spending $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report within 24 hours identifying any donors who gave $10,000 or more. Current election law requires super political action committees to make periodic reports to the Federal Election Commission, but nonprofit groups - including social-welfare organizations, labor unions, and trade groups - generally do not have to reveal the sources of election-related spending.

"Perhaps Republicans want to shield the handful of billionaires willing to contribute nine figures to sway a close presidential election," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.). He said this election was in danger of being bought by "17 angry, old, white men."

The White House, in a statement, said the bill was needed so Americans would "know who is attempting to influence the nation's elections." Without the bill, it said, "corporations and wealthy individuals will continue to be able to shield their donations from disclosure."

Democrats have been pushing for more disclosure since the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in the 2010 Citizens United case, which overturned a decades-old law barring corporations, unions, and other organizations from spending on advertising and other forms of political activity.

Monday's vote was strictly along party lines except for Reid, who changed his vote to "no" in a procedural move that allows him to bring up the legislation again.

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