Washington — An attempt failed Monday to move forward on a bill that would require the disclosure of large political donations by unions and corporations.
Sixty votes were needed to end a filibuster on the DISCLOSE Act (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections). But only 51 senators, including Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., voted to end debate on the bill.
The Democratic-backed bill would require anyone making a political contribution larger than $10,000 to disclose it within 24 hours to the Federal Election Commission.
While Lieberman voted to end the filibuster, he opposed the DISCLOSE Act two years ago, the last time it was considered by the Senate. At that time he also voted to end a filibuster on the bill.
He has not weighed in on the current bill.
“We’ve made multiple calls to his office and our members have called him, but we’ve gotten no response,” said Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause Connecticut, which supports the bill.
Blumenthal is a co-sponsor of the legislation.
“Voters deserve to know who is funding a deluge of super PAC ads threatening to drown voices of ordinary people,” Blumenthal said.
Approved by the House two years ago, the DISCLOSE Act is a response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. In that ruling, the court said that the First Amendment’s free speech clause protects independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
That has resulted in a boom of SuperPACs and other political committees that can accept unlimited amounts of money from corporations and unions with little or no disclosure.
Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., opponents of the DISCLOSE Act say it would violate freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment and “intimidate” donors to conservative groups that are spending money trying to defeat President Obama and other Democrats.
Republican candidates have benefited much more than Democrats have from a post-Citizens United influx of political cash.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on Monday asked the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to require insurance companies to disclose all political spending from corporate funds.
The request to NAIC was provoked by the recent accidental disclosure by Hartford-based Aetna that it contributed more than $7 million to the American Action Network and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, groups that are spending millions to defeat Democratic candidates.
“Americans should not have to find out insurance companies’ hidden agendas by accident,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “As the Senate takes up the DISCLOSE Act, it is critical to keep the heat on corporations resorting to shady methods to influence voters.”