Opponents of the DISCLOSE Act are so desperate to keep the light from shining on massive amounts of secret, dark money contributions infecting our elections that they are willing to mislead the public to make their case. In the third of a series of posts, What You Should Know About the Disclose Act, we address the question of whether the DISCLOSE Act treats unions differently than any other group.
The answer is no.
Still, the truth hasn’t stopped Senator Mitch McConnell and others, most recently the Club for Growth, from twisting reality to claim that the disclosure provisions in the bill don’t apply to unions. The disclosure provisions are actually quite straightforward and entirely evenhanded. The DISCLOSE Act requires all organizations that spend $10,000 or more on election-related activities to disclose within 24 hours any donor who has given more than $10,000 to the organization. The requirements apply to Super PACs, 501(c) organizations and yes, labor unions.
By setting the disclosure thresholds relatively high, the bill is intended to capture only contributions that, due to their size, could corrupt or appear to corrupt the political process. It is true that the names of average dues paying union members will not be listed on disclosure reports filed by unions, as individual dues will likely be far smaller than the $10,000 threshold. By the same token, the names of donors who contribute less than $10,000 to a trade association like the Chamber of Commerce or a nonprofit organization like, say, the Club for Growth, will also remain anonymous, even if those groups engage in electioneering activity.
Another inconvenient truth: Unlike other membership organizations or corporations, unions are already subject to public reporting obligations under federal labor regulations. Unions must file annual reports with the Office of Labor-Management Standards disclosing any political or legislative disbursements of $5,000 or more.
The truth doesn’t matter much to those who will oppose transparency. But it should matter to the rest of us.
Coming Monday: Is the DISCLOSE Act Constitutional? (Hint: Absolutely)