July 26, 2010

Too Much Rides on the DISCLOSE Act To Play Party Politics

Statement of Craig Holman, Ph.D., Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen

 Five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court - none of whom ever ran for election or served in elective office - reversed a century of political tradition and decades of legal precedents when they ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations may spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or attack candidates in local, state and federal elections. This disastrous decision will both increase the premium on campaign dollars and the role of the wealthy in determining who gets elected to office. It vastly enhances the power of well-funded corporate lobbyists in extracting policy concessions from members of Congress and the executive branch.

The DISCLOSE Act (S. 3295), sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), is an important first response to this ruling. The legislation would close a gaping loophole in the campaign finance disclosure system. Under existing law, groups that pay for electioneering communications need not disclose their major donors. Most corporations will launder their political expenditures through innocuous sounding groups, such as Americans for Job Security, and thus hide their political activity. The DISCLOSE Act for the first time would require these outside groups to identify their major donors of $1,000 or more who are funding the campaign ads, and that identifying information would be posted on the Internet for all to see.

For the DISCLOSE Act to take effect in time for the 2010 general election, when a lot of this new political spending is expected to swamp the airwaves, it must be approved by the U.S. Senate before the August recess. For that to happen, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) filibuster to prevent a vote on the bill must be broken.

Public Citizen strongly encourages senators of all parties to stand up for opening the books on money in politics. The quality of our elections and the integrity of our government rides on this vote for the DISCLOSE Act.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.