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Fred Wertheimer

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Fourteen Current Republican Senators Voted for Loophole-Closing Disclosure Legislation Enacted in 2000

Posted: 07/16/2012 3:08 pm

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has spent his entire career obstructing, filibustering and opposing campaign finance bills. It is fair to say that Senator McConnell has never met a campaign finance bill he liked, except for bills to repeal campaign finance laws.

But that has not been the history of other Senate Republicans, especially when it comes to campaign finance disclosure laws.

In 2000, loopholes in the disclosure requirements for 527 groups -- similar to the loopholes today for 501(c) nonprofit groups -- led Congress to act quickly to restore effective campaign finance disclosure requirements.

The disclosure legislation was enacted by Congress in 2000 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 92 to 6, with 48 Republican Senators voting for the loophole-closing disclosure legislation and only six Republican Senators opposing the bill. Needless to say, Senator McConnell was one of the six Senators voting no.

Fourteen current Republican senators voted for the loophole-closing disclosure legislation in 2000. They include: Senators Thad Cochran (MS), Susan Collins (ME), Michael Crapo (ID), Mike Enzi (WV), Chuck Grassley (IA), Orrin Hatch (UT), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), Jon Kyl (AZ), Richard Lugar (IN), John McCain (AZ), Pat Roberts (KS), Jeff Sessions (AL), Richard Shelby (AL) and Olympia Snowe (ME).

With a Senate cloture vote scheduled today on S.3369, the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, no Republican Senators have said they will support the disclosure legislation.

Senate Republicans still appear to be marching in lockstep with Senator McConnell down a path towards licensing secret money, corruption and scandal, just as Senate Republicans did in 2010 in opposing the DISCLOSE Act of 2010. The vote of just one Republican Senator then would have ended a filibuster and opened the door to enacting the disclosure legislation in 2010.

To date, Republican Senators have chosen party over country and political money over protecting citizens against corruption.

Democracy 21 very much hopes that this changes today and that at least some of the Republican Senators who have recognized the vital importance of effective disclosure with their votes in the past will do so again on today's cloture vote.

The arguments being made against the legislation by Senator McConnell and others are hollow and without merit. Senator McConnell has challenged the DISCLOSE Act of 2012 on constitutional grounds while completely ignoring the overwhelming 8 to 1 vote by the Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of disclosure requirements for outside spending groups.

Ever since Buckley v. Valeo (1976) the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of campaign finance disclosure laws as necessary to prevent government corruption and provide citizens with basic information they have a right to know.

The Chamber of Commerce claims that the legislation tilt towards labor is a red herring argument to provide cover for the fact that the Chamber does not want citizens to know the identities of the corporations funding the Chamber's campaign expenditures.

The disclosure provisions of the DISCLOSE Act apply across-the-board to any group spending more than $10,000 on campaign-related expenditures, regardless of whether these expenditures are made by corporations, labor organizations, conservative groups, progressive groups, pro-Democratic groups or pro-Republican groups.

The $10,000 threshold for disclosure of donors to groups making campaign-related expenditures is designed to narrowly tailor the disclosure requirements for all groups making campaign-related expenditures that are not political organizations. By requiring disclosure only of substantial donors to such groups, the $10,000 threshold balances the interests that such groups have in privacy for their donors with the public's interest in knowing the significant donors financing campaign expenditures. The contribution disclosure threshold also answers the inaccurate claim that the Act requires groups to disclose their membership lists.

Until the Citizens United decision on January 21, 2010, most congressional Republicans consistently took the position that effective and timely disclosure laws were the best way to address campaign finance issues. Their position changed in the wake of Citizens United for partisan and political reasons having little to do with the policies involved in disclosure laws. This is affirmed by the fact that Republican Senators have not been willing to discuss policy changes in the disclosure legislation that would lead to their supporting the legislation.

Today's cloture vote on the DISCLOSE Act will put every Senator on record and will require each Senator who votes against the Act to take personal responsibility for the corruption and scandal that invariably will follow if new disclosure legislation is not enacted.

 

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