In spite of public outrage over the flood of secret money in this election, Republican senators stonewalled a vote on the DISCLOSE Act twice, effectively blocking a pathway to transparency and accountability in campaign spending this year.
The party-line votes not only fly in the face of common sense: they directly contradict past, core tenets of the Republican platform.
To illustrate the point, the Huffington Post published an article this week helpfully titled “14 Republican senators who were for disclosure before they were against it:”
Back then the controversy centered on groups formed under section 527 of the Internal Revenue code, although the amounts involved look quaint in comparison to the vast gushers of secret political money being funneled through 501(c)4 "social welfare" organizations and 501(c)6 trade associations in this election cycle.
Today, with the Supreme Court having essentially outlawed limits on political spending, Republicans have made a complete about-face on the issue. All of a sudden, they vehemently oppose disclosure.
A number of Democratic senators, led by the bill’s author, Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), took to the Senate floor following the first failed vote to protest the partisan divide and make an extended case for the DISCLOSE Act. For more than seven hours, senators gave their own testimony on the importance of bringing unlimited money from corporations and wealthy individuals to influence our elections out of the shadows.
Throughout the debate, which lasted past midnight, a number of senators noted the previous bipartisan support for reform in the face of corruption in money-soaked politics. That trend makes the current lack of any Republican support curious, to say the least.
Not all Republicans have abandoned disclosure. Former Republican Senators Warren Rudman (NH) and Chuck Hagel (NE) wrote an important opinion piece in The New York Times praising disclosure:
A bill being debated this week in the Senate, called the Disclose Act of 2012, is a well-researched, well-conceived solution to this insufferable situation. Unfortunately, on Monday, the Senate voted, mostly along party lines, to block the bill from going forward. But the Disclose Act is not dead. As of now, it is 9 short of the 60 votes it needs…
We believe that every senator should embrace the Disclose Act of 2012. This legislation treats trade unions and corporations equally and gives neither party an advantage. It is good for Republicans and it is good for Democrats. Most important, it is good for the American people.
The Senate voted for a second time on the DISCLOSE Act yesterday -- which also failed along partisan lines. Here’s hoping that senators who have been consistent proponents of sunlight in election spending wake up and remember the positions they’ve held throughout their careers. In the meantime, we will continue pushing for crucial measures like this and others that will mitigate the rampant damage being done to our democracy by the torrent of money in our political system.