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Holman

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives took the first bold step in repairing some of the damage caused by the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Public Citizen applauds the passage of the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175) by a 219 to 206 vote. Two Republican members of Congress – Reps. Michael Castle (Del.) and Walter Jones (N.C.) Anh “Joseph” Cao (La.) – stood firm on their principles of promoting transparency in elections and joined in leadership with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in pressing for adoption of the measure.

When five justices of the Supreme Court decided unilaterally to rewrite the nation’s campaign finance laws and allow unlimited corporate spending in elections, it became imperative for Congress, at least as a first step, to give voters a chance to know who is paying how much to promote or attack candidates. The DISCLOSE Act, which stands for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections, provides voters the desperately needed means to decipher campaign messages by revealing the true funding sources behind campaign ads. The measure closes the gaping loopholes in current disclosure laws that allow corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to hide their campaign spending by funneling their money through trade associations and innocuous-sounding front groups. Revealing the funders behind these groups is perhaps the most valuable tool voters can use in evaluating the merits of the campaign messages that are about to besiege them. (more…)

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Holman

Carving out an exemption for the NRA to the individual donor disclosure requirement of the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175) is a strategic decision by congressional leaders to get the measure approved by the House. It is a troubling decision, but the carve-out poses little damage to the overall objectives of the bill.

The legislation still provides what the public desperately needs in the wake of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision: full disclosure of corporate and wealthy funding sources behind express advocacy ads and electioneering communications; extends the electioneering communications window to cover most of an election period; and applies some restrictions on major government contractors and foreign entities in financing campaign ads.

The NRA (and AARP and Humane Society) will still have to disclose in their ads that they are financed by the NRA and report to the FEC how much the NRA spends on electioneering activity. The head of the NRA will have to do a stand-by-your-ad disclaimer in each ad. Corporate money cannot be used by the NRA to finance these ads, and the sources of funds given to the NRA and earmarked for campaign ads will continue to be subject to disclosure under campaign finance laws. Personally I ardently disagree with the NRA’s politics, and I find the exemption reprehensible as a give-in to a powerful special interest, but the NRA is not a front group for corporate interests and so its exemption from disclosing its individual donors does not fundamentally undermine the DISCLOSE Act. (more…)

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It has been a long, long haul for Congress to fashion a legislative response to the devastating Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, which unleashed a flood of unlimited corporate money in elections. Finally, we could almost see the horizon for a legislative response.

After months of prolonged negotiations among congressional leaders and civic groups, they finally produced the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175), legislation designed largely to require full transparency of who is funding campaign ads by corporations, unions and advocacy groups. The House Administration held two hearings in two weeks on the DISCLOSE Act, marked it up in near-final form, and sent it to the House Rules Committee on Thursday to set the terms of the floor debate, which was expected today (Friday).

Thirty minutes before the Rules Committee was scheduled to hold its hearing, I received notice from a colleague outside the Rules Committee room that a sign has been posted on the door:

“Committee Meeting Postponed until Further Notice.”

Turns out we are nowhere near the horizon. (more…)

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