On last night’s show John mentioned that an effort led by congressional Democrats to require disclosure of donors among independent political groups had fallen victim to partisan gridlock in the United States Senate. Known as the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act – or the DISCLOSE Act – Senate Democrats have filed for cloture on their bill twice but both votes were blocked by unified Republican opposition.
The bill first failed 57 to 41 along party lines in a roll call vote on July 27. Senators John Ensign (R-Nevada) and Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) did not vote.
After the July vote, Republicans accused Democrats of trying to protect their congressional majorities by carving out exceptions in the new legislation for groups sympathetic to their causes. In response, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) tried to win over Republicans by promising to postpone enactment of the new disclosure legislation until after November’s midterm elections.
Nonetheless, a cloture vote on the bill failed again along party lines on September 23. This time the Democrats rallied their entire caucus in support of the legislation, securing 59 votes, but no Republicans defected. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) did not vote.
In the run-up to the September vote, Democrats focused much of their efforts on moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, a frequent target of Democratic bargaining. In the end she voted with the rest of her caucus, releasing this statement explaining her opposition:
“I am deeply disappointed that the legislation currently before the Senate is a 117-page wide-ranging bill that does not apply equally to everyone who is engaged in campaign advertising, contains provisions that are clearly unconstitutional, and has never benefitted from full public review and vetting at even a single committee hearing… “When we first considered this measure in July, the American Civil Liberties Union – which opposes the bill – wrote to me that ‘this legislation would fail to improve the integrity of our campaigns in any substantial way while significantly harming the speech and associational rights of Americans.’ Given the fact that we’re now considering identical legislation, there is no reason to believe this bill will do otherwise.”