Friday, June 25, 2010

Disclose Act Passes House

The Sunlight Foundation mobilized its online network today to contact their representatives to help pass the DISCLOSE Act (HR 5175) in the House. It did pass, by a slim margin. It now has to pass in the Senate. This act was written in response to the Citizens United case in the Supreme Court which allows companies and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

Two of our congressional representatives, both of whom voted for the bill, sponsored amendments or related legislation.
From Joe Sestak:

To increase transparency and accountability in our democratic process after the Citizens United ruling, Joe Sestak introduced the Fairness in Corporate Campaign Spending Act of 2010 (H.R. 4644), which would prohibit a corporation from spending company money on elections without obtaining the prior approval of a majority of its shareholders, the true owners of the companies, rather than allowing corporate CEOs to decide how to direct millions of dollars to their preferred candidates. This legislation, along with the DISCLOSE Act, must represent interim steps on a path to a system of public financing. Joe is also a co-sponsor of The Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826), which would create a voluntary public campaign finance system to provide a 4-to-1 public-funding match on donations of $100 or less.

In addition to having no special exemption for the most powerful organizations, Joe Sestak has called for a stronger DISCLOSE Act that would require reporting all donors to organizations making campaign expenditures, not just those who contribute more than $600.

From Congressman Patrick Murphy:
Today, Congressman Patrick Murphy’s (D-PA) bipartisan amendment to increase transparency in political advertisements sponsored by corporations passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175). His amendment requires that the corporate backers of political ads disclose the location of their company, so that residents of Bucks County would know if outsiders are attempting to influence their elections. If the sponsor of the ad is an individual, they would have to disclose the city in which they reside. The amendment was endorsed by Public Citizen, a national consumer advocacy organization.

Murphy’s amendment was included in a broader bill that seeks to undo the damage caused by the radical Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed corporations and foreign interests to flood the political process with an unlimited amount of money. The DISCLOSE Act mitigates the harmful effects of the decision by increasing transparency in campaign spending through ad disclaimers. By requiring corporations to “stand by their ads,” the bill allows for a more transparent political process and gives viewers important information about who is paying to influence elections. What’s at stake with this bill is the constitutional right of voters to know the identity of the organizations spending money to influence their federal elections.

“The choice before us today is clear: you either stand for increased transparency in the political process or you want to allow unidentified corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns,” said Murphy.

Murphy added that his amendment adds further transparency to the political process by ensuring that people can know if an individual or corporation outside the district is trying to influence a campaign.

“If Halliburton pays for an ad endorsing a politician, shouldn’t Bucks County voters at least know that the ad is being run by a special interest operating out of Houston, Texas?” he asked.

The DISCLOSE Act also reflects the will of the American people. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 8 in 10 Americans opposed the high court's ruling (including 7 out of 10 Republicans) and 72% favored congressional action to curb the ruling.

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