DISCLOSE ACT, Take Two, Teed Up for Senate Debate


The Senate is scheduled on Monday, July 16, to take up the newest version of the DISCLOSE Act, which would require any organization contributing over $10,000 to a campaign during an election cycle to report the expenditure -- on, say, political advertising -- within 24 hours, including who the actual donors were.

Such a bill, if passed, which is unlikely, could discourage political ad spending, though not in time for the current campaigns. It would require any TV or radio ads to include "I am so-and-so and I paid for this ad..." disclosures from up to the top five funders for TV ads and top two for radio ads, with, in the case of TV, accompany crawls, photos and video. Those funders would include unions, corporations and individuals. Radio ads would have a carve-out if the disclosure constituted so much of the ad that it was a hardship on the buyer, but there is not similar caveat for TV.

The bill is the latest version of one introduced in 2010 by Rep. Chris Van Hollen in the House and Sen. Chuck Schumer in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United to allow corporations and unions to directly fund campaign ads -- the court ruled that the ban had been an unconstitutional infringement on those entities' speech rights.

The bill would be a way to trace where all the unlimited spending on campaign ads unleashed by Citizen's United was coming from, its backers say.

The new bill was introduced in March by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate's Citizen's United task force, which includes Schumer as well as Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and others.

"The flood of secret money unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision threatens to drown out the voices of middle class families in our democracy," said Whitehouse in a statement. "The DISCLOSE Act will uphold every citizen's right to know where this secret money is coming from and whom it is going to, and will help protect the interests of middle class families from the special interests who already have too much power. It's time for Congress to act."

The bill is opposed by a number of Republicans, and is almost certainly not in a position to secure passage in the Republican-controlled House. In any event, it would not apply to the current election cycle.