White House Strongly Supports DISCLOSE Act

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The Obama Administration strongly came out on Monday for the DISCLOSE (Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) Act, which would require enhanced disclosures on TV and radio political advertising

It was a case of the White House supporting a bill supported by another Whitehouse, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who introduced the bill last March.

"The [act] is a necessary measure to ensure transparency and accountability and to equip Americans with the tools to know who is attempting to influence the Nation's elections," said the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The bill is meant to help track some of the money flowing into the system after the Supreme Court ruled that the ban on direct corporate and union funding of electioneering communications (for or against a candidate) in the run-up to federal elections and primaries violated their speech rights. It would require potentially extensive on-air disclosures in TV and radio campaign spots.

"The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 50 (2010), allowed unlimited corporate and special-interest money in elections, bringing about an era where corporations and other wealthy interests can exert vastly disproportionate influence, including through anonymous donation," said OMB. "In the absence of the disclosure rules in S. 3369, corporations and wealthy individuals will continue to be able to shield their donations from disclosure. Congress should act now to hold corporations and special interests that participate in the Nation's elections accountable to the American people."

Democrats were trying to bring the bill up for a vote Monday, but Republicans blocked a move to invoke cloture and the Dems were still talking about the billl at press time--9:30 p.m,. with plans to try and hold another cloture vote--which requires 60 votes--on MOnday so they could debate and bring the bill up for an up-o- down vote. The cloture vote went down 51 to 44, so Dems were pointing out they had they votes to pass it if Republicans would stop filibustering.

The bill as initially introduced would have required 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. But late last week Democratic backers stripped it down to simply the disclosure part.

It is the latest version of a bill 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.