- The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration debates progress on the DISCLOSURE Act.
- If the bill is passed, organizations would be required to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more during an election cycle.
- Variations of the Disclose Act have been defeated in the Senate multiple times in the past.
Calling it “blatantly unconstitutional,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz predicted another defeat for Democrats’ impractical weapon against hidden money in politics — the DISCLOSURE Act.
“The DISCLOSURE Act is designed to target and harass speech that the left doesn’t like,” Cruz said at a Senate hearing Tuesday.
As Cruz’s comments indicate, most Republicans have no appetite to force politically active organizations to reveal the identities of their most wealthy donors, and the DISCLOSURE Act could die again this congressional session, just as other versions have over the years.
Conservatives argue that big-dollar bankrollers have the right to express their political views anonymously through campaign contributions, as long as they are not directly paying candidates’ own campaigns.
The DISCLOSURE Act, as written, would require politically active organizations — including corporations, labor unions and independent political action committees — to disclose donors who contribute $10,000 or more during an election cycle. Most elected Democrats argue that unlimited political spending without transparency is corrupting.
Technically named the Casting Light on Spending in Elections by Democracy Is Strengthened Act, the first Disclosure Act proposal first appeared a dozen years ago as a Democrat-led response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
At the time, then-President Barack Obama criticized the decision as “opening the floodgates for special interests … to spend without limit on our elections.”
Since then, so-called “dark money” — from both left and right — has flowed into national political elections, often through “social welfare” nonprofits and business leagues that, by law, are not required to publicly disclose their funds. Sometimes, they spend it themselves. Lately, they’ve been injecting it into super PACs — political committees that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including undisclosed nonprofits, corporations and unions.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who sponsored the bill in 2010, said the Citizens United Supreme Court decision was “one of the scariest decisions we’ve ever had from a court.”
Schumer said the Disclosure Act “should be bipartisan and, sadly, it’s not.” “The American people have a right to know who is trying to influence elections. Democracy cannot thrive without transparency.”
David Keating, president of the Institute for Free Speech, a nonprofit organization that supports deregulation of political finance, testified Tuesday that the DISCLOSURE Act would harm people who exercise their legal right to participate in the nation’s elections.
“Significant parts of the bill would violate the privacy of advocacy groups and their supporters — including groups that do nothing more than speak to Congress about policy issues or express opinions about federal judicial nominees,” he said. “Freedom can mean the difference between freedom and tyranny.”
During questioning, Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who meets with Democrats, ripped Keating.
“A person who contributes a million dollars to a political campaign, why is their tender feelings worth protecting more than my $200 donor has to express?” asked the king. “The crux of your argument is people’s fear of harassment.”