The Senate failed Monday to advance legislation that would require independent groups to disclose the names of contributors who give more than $10,000 to independent groups for use in political campaigns.
The measure, known as the DISCLOSE Act, (“Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections”) died when it failed to earn the 60 votes needed to move forward. The measure was drafted in response to the 2010 Citizens United ruling, in which the U.S. Supreme Court said that corporate campaign donations are a form of free speech and cannot be limited by government. Some nonprofit groups and unions are not required to reveal their donors. The bill would require speedy disclosure of big donors.
So how did senators vote?
ON THE SENATE VOTE TO PROCEED TO DEBATE ON THE DISCLOSE ACT:
Final vote count: 51 to 44. The bill needed 60 votes to pass. Five senators didn't vote — Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). Kirk is out on an extended medical leave because of a stroke he suffered in January.
All Democrats present voted to proceed to final debate on the bill, while all Republicans present voted against proceeding — despite previous support among some GOP senators for campaign finance reform.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), perhaps the most outspoken GOP advocate for campaign finance reform in the past, called the DISCLOSE Act “a clever attempt at political gamesmanship, than actual reform.”
McCain and others argue that the bill’s high reporting thresholds would unfairly favor labor union members while forcing corporations to disclose their donations.
In a statement late Monday, McCain said the bill “forces some entities to inform the public about the origins of their financial support, while allowing others – most notably those affiliated with organized labor – to fly below the Federal Election Commission’s regulatory radar.”
“Rather than treat all sides equally as a true reform bill would, it contains special carve outs for union bosses and other favored interest groups,” Brown said Monday.
Supporters of the measure said the bill would provide a more transparent understanding of individuals and groups donating to political campaigns and that the changes are needed to counter the rise of super PACs and politically-active nonprofit groups.
The bill “wasn’t a new concept,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said after the vote. “In fact, many Republicans who blocked this bill today once supported it.” But Reid said those Republicans “chose to side with powerful, anonymous donors.”
Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.
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