Angry Senate Democrats are calling out Republicans as hypocrites for obstructing a bill that would enhance the transparency of burgeoning special-interest spending on American elections.
A united Senate GOP Tuesday mounted a successful filibuster of the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act, or DISCLOSE Act, which is intended to give Americans a window into the expected increase in corporate influence on elections coming as a result of the Supreme Court’s January Citizens United decision which swept away decades of bipartisan limits on special-interest election spending.
Authored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the House approved the DISCLOSE Act a month ago.
“Today, Senate Republicans once again voted to protect powerful special interests instead of Americans – this time voting for what amounts to a corporate takeover of our elections,” Van Hollen says in a statement released after the failed Senate cloture vote. “Despite widespread Republican support for increased transparency and disclosure in the past, their opposition to the DISCLOSE Act ensures that voters will be left in the dark as unlimited corporate money is spent by shadowy groups seeking to mislead Americans.”
Van Hollen is not the only DISCLOSE Act supporter to notice that a number of Republicans joined the filibuster who, in the past, advocated for greater transparency of campaign spending.
Those quotes include remarks made in 2004 by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who co-authored with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) a landmark campaign finance reform law.
“This is not a partisan issue. It should not advantage one party over the other. What reform does is create transparency, equality, and participation, and inspire confidence in those we represent,” McCain is quoted as saying. “The strength and real muscle in this fight lies with the American people. During the long battle in the Senate to pass campaign finance reform, we called on the American public to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. They answered, and the impact was astounding.”
Senate Democrats vowed not give up on the DISCLOSE Act, and that they will try again for a vote in September after the annual congressional August recess, but it is unclear if successive attempts could be successful.
Supporters will look most intently on turning the votes of at least one of three moderate New England GOP senators, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.
“Senator Snowe, Collins and Brown all raised concerns about passing the DISCLOSE Act in a time frame that would allow the new law to be effective for the 2010 congressional elections,” says Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a Washington organization that supporters enactment of the DISCLOSE Act. “That is no longer a practical possibility.
“We again strongly urge Senators Snowe, Collins and Brown, and any other Republican Senator interested in government transparency, to work with Senate supporters of the DISCLOSE Act to reach an agreement that they can support and that will reflect the interests of the American people,” Wertheimer adds.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.