Will the House Stand Up for Disclosure of Campaign Spending?

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Today may be a bellwether day for transparency in federal elections. The House is expected to vote on the DISCLOSE Act, Congressional legislation designed to counteract – through greater transparency – the new corporate and union money that will be used to try to influence elections and elected officials as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case.

The outcome of the Houses vote is uncertain. Democratic leaders think they have they votes to pass the bill, but last minute pressure on wavering lawmakers by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business may jeopardize its passage. Their implicit threats to punish those who vote for the bill take on an almost surreal quality in this context and place Members in a Catch-22 situation. The Chamber is in essence telling Member of Congress, “kill the bill that would disclose the funding behind election ads or we will run election ads against you, that, if the bill fails, will be paid for with funding from secret sources.”

The bill goes far to ensure that the money behind the political activities of corporate, union and shadow groups will be online, available for public scrutiny, in real time. As voters, it makes a difference whether the money behind a political ad paid for by a group calling itself “Clean Water, Clean Jobs ” comes from environmental advocates or big oil companies. A voter who is skeptical about the environmental movement will respond differently to that ad than someone who has just returned from a stint cleaning oil off of pelicans in the Gulf Coast, but only if they know who the messenger really is.

Sunlight worked hard on an amendment to make sure the information about who is paying for elections would be available on a single database on the FEC’s website in real time. But to win that battle and lose the war will be devastating to the cause of more transparent elections. With the Chamber, NFIB and other powerful special interests working hard to kill the DISCLOSE Act, we need your help to tell your elected officials that you want to know who is paying for the election. Please call your representatives and urge them to vote for the DISCLOSE Act.

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  • Harry

    Every Action that is taken by our elected officials at all levels of government should be directed to support the “will of the majority”- the “owners and stockholders of America”….and anyone acting contrary to the “will of the majority” could be be addressed as a “little bastard” …. tarred and feathered…and kicked out of town. The same status should be given to those elected officials who “hold there hand on the Bible – and swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States”….then don’t because of political pressure….The citizens and stockholders of America also have a responsibility…knowing the dispicable status of US politics, “We the People…the owners” need to support those candidates who want to do the right thing. The opposition…supporting special interests need to be identified…need to know who there bosses are….and be held accountable.

    Thanks for your work..

    Harry

    definition:

    “little bastard” an enemy of the state who is opposed and does not support the “will of the majority”

  • John Thacker

    I still don’t understand how the Sunlight Foundation distinguishes this from NAACP v. Alabama, which bloggers here have previously strongly supported. The ACLU opposes the DISCLOSE Act precisely because of the same rights being at stake as in NAACP v. Alabama.

  • Sunlight, you’re wrong. The answer to speech from corporations is MORE SPEECH, not a new gaggle of regulatory hoops that will silence people. I’ve watched what election law does: it makes it impossible for people to decide to run for, or support candidates without hiring a lawyer and a squad of other people to do things. The DISCLOSE act is just another one which will NOT AFFECT THE CORPORATIONS (because they can hire people to file documents), but WILL AFFECT people with opinions who want to communicate them. More fundamentally, the legislation does NOTHING that will affect the core of the Citizens United case: that the First Amendment doesn’t discriminate between speakers, corporate or individual.

  • Naturally, I support all efforts, like this one to counteract the corporate takeover of elections. But the bottom line is still this: nothing is going to change in this country until all elections are publicly funded. I know that, in the current political climate, that wish is far-fetched, but we must keep trying. Thanks, Sunlight.