U.S. Senate: Reform Groups Urge Senators to Oppose Filibuster & Support Passage of DISCLOSE Act
Reform groups today urged Senators to vote for cloture on the bill and against an anticipated filibuster when a revised version of the DISCLOSE Act (S. 3628) is brought to the floor for consideration next Tuesday. The legislation was introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in Citizens United v. FEC unleashing corporate and union treasury funds in federal elections.
The DISCLOSE Act would require timely and effective disclosure of these campaign-related expenditures, among other provisions. National polling since the time of the decision has consistently shown that Americans by overwhelming margins opposed the Supreme Court’s decision and support a legislative response. A companion bill (H.R. 5175) has already passed in the House.
The groups signing the letter included the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG.
The full text of the letter follows below.
July 23, 2010
Our organizations strongly urge you to support S.3628, the DISCLOSE Act, and to vote for cloture next Tuesday in order to allow the Senate to consider the legislation.
The organizations include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, People For the American Way, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.
The DISCLOSE Act became necessary as a result of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court earlier this year which now allows corporations and labor unions for the first time in more than 60 years to make unlimited campaign expenditures to influence federal elections and government decisions.
The Court decision left voters facing the prospect of corporations, labor unions, advocacy groups and trade associations spending hundreds of millions of dollars to influence their votes in the 2010 congressional races, without meaningful disclosure of these campaign expenditures or the donors funding the expenditures.
The principal goal of the DISCLOSE Act is to fill this disclosure gap and ensure that voters know what is going on in their congressional races and who is financing the expected flood of campaign ads to influence their votes.
S. 3628, the DISCLOSE Act, scheduled for a cloture vote next week, establishes new, effective disclosure requirements for corporations, labor unions, advocacy groups and trade associations. The bill does not favor either party.
The public’s right to know who is spending money to influence elections and the identity of the funders behind these campaign expenditures was clearly and unequivocally recognized by the Supreme Court in the Citizens Unitedcase.
By an 8 to 1 vote, the Court in Citizens United found that disclosure laws “do not prevent anyone from speaking,” and serve governmental interests in “providing the electorate with information” about the sources of money spent to influence elections so that voters can “make informed choices in the political marketplace.”
The Court specifically noted the problems that result when groups run ads “while hiding behind dubious and misleading names,” thus concealing the true source of the funds being used to make campaign expenditures.
The Court in Citizens United stated:
“With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters. Shareholders can determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are “‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.” 540 U. S., at 259 (opinion of SCALIA, J.); see MCFL, supra, at 261. The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”
As The Washington Post stated in an editorial (June 17, 2010) endorsing the DISCLOSE Act when it was pending in the House:
“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.”
We strongly urge you to vote for cloture next Tuesday in order to allow the Senate to consider S.3628, the DISCLOSE Act, and to vote for passage of the legislation.
Campaign Legal Center
League of Women Voters
People For the American Way