U.S. House: Reform Groups Push for Passage of DISCLOSE Act, Urge Members to Oppose Amendments to Weaken Bill

CLC Staff
Jun 22, 2010
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With a floor vote expected soon, reform groups are strongly urging Representatives to vote for the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175), and the Manager's Amendment. The groups are emphasizing to Members that they should oppose any amendments to weaken the proposed legislation.

The groups signing the letter included the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and Public Citizen.

The full text of the letter follows below.

 

Dear Representative,

Our organizations strongly urge you to vote for H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act, and the Manager's Amendment, and to oppose all amendments to weaken, undermine or gut the bill.

The organizations include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and Public Citizen.

The DISCLOSE Act is about the basic right of American voters to know the identity of groups spending money to influence their elections and the donors funding these expenditures.

The public's right to know this information was clearly and unequivocally recognized by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case.

The Court in an 8 to 1 vote held that disclosure requirements for campaign-related expenditures "do not prevent anyone from speaking," and disclosure "permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way."

The Court further stated that disclosure laws serve important governmental interests in "providing the electorate with information about the sources of election-related spending" so that voters can "make informed choices in the political marketplace."

Voters have a right to know the important campaign finance information the DISCLOSE Act will provide, beginning with the 2010 congressional races.

A narrow exemption has been incorporated in the bill that exempts from donor disclosure the NRA, the Sierra Club and a few other very large c4 organizations. While we object to this exemption, we also recognize that it was added to the bill to prevent the NRA from killing he DISCLOSE Act in the House.

The question this raises for House members is whether the DISCLOSE Act, with its broad-reaching campaign finance disclosure requirements for corporations, labor unions, business trade associations and almost all c4 groups, should be passed or whether it should be killed because of the narrow exemption in the legislation.

We believe the answer to this question clearly is that the DISCLOSE Act should be enacted and we strongly support passage of the legislation with the narrow exemption in the bill.

Passage of the DISCLOSE Act, even with the objectionable NRA exemption, has been endorsed by editorials in The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times .

According to The Washington Post editorial (June 17, 2010):

The question facing House members is whether some disclosure of political spending -- a good deal more disclosure, in fact -- is better than none. We think it is. Under existing rules, those who want to spend money to influence campaigns without revealing their identities can operate through nonprofit organizations or trade associations. The House measure would require these groups to reveal their donors, just as so-called 527 organizations were called on to report contributors after they emerged as important, but shadowy, political players. For those who believe that disclosure is the best defense against corrupting the political process, this new reporting is crucial. Exempting the NRA is obnoxious, but the alternative is even worse.

According to The New York Times editorial (June 17, 2010):

he pending "Disclose" reform requires transparency from the powers financing the expected wave of heightened attack and support ads — even mandating fat cats to identify themselves in commercials indulging their new freedom to spend without limit. Spending would be restricted for corporations that have major government contracts or foreign controls. And disclosure would be mandated for political front groups and money megamachines already being set up by such operatives as Karl Rove, the Bush campaign guru.

None of these protections will be enacted if opponents succeed in using the N.R.A. exemption as an excuse to not act at all.

A ccording to The Los Angeles Times ( June 18, 2010) editorial:

Known as the DISCLOSE Act, the legislation is a response to a wrongheaded Supreme Court decision that came down in January allowing corporations to use their treasury funds to sponsor election-related ads. The bill would require corporations, unions, advocacy groups and some nonprofits to disclose the names of their top donors. Also, the top official of those organizations would have to appear in each advertisement and say that he had approved it.

Even with its exceptions and inconsistencies, the House bill would empower voters by allowing them to assess — and in some cases dismiss — political appeals based on the vested interests of unions, corporations and wealthy individuals.

If the DISCLOSE Act is not enacted, voters will not know the identity of the corporate donors that are funding the Chamber of Commerce's reported $50 million campaign to influence the 2010 congressional elections, and the amounts those corporate donors are giving.

Voters also will not know the names of and amounts given by the wealthy individuals that are funding c4 groups such as American Action Network, recently formed by political operatives to spend a reported $25 million to influence the 2010 congressional elections.

Voters also will not know the names of and amounts given by the wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions that are funding other c4 groups making campaign-related expenditure to influence the 2010 congressional elections, This includes undisclosed contributions to c4 groups run by political operatives from both parties and to c4 groups formed to serve as front or conduit groups for hidden donations.

Our organizations strongly urge you to vote for the DISCLOSE Act and the Manager's Amendment, and to oppose all amendments to weaken, undermine or gut the legislation.

 

Campaign Legal Center

Common Cause

Democracy 21

Public Citizen

League of Women Voters

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