Bill on political ad disclosures falls a little short in Senate
By Dan Eggen Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked legislation requiring fuller disclosure of the money behind political advertising, derailing a major White House initiative and virtually ensuring an onslaught of attack ads during this year’s midterm election season.
The vote — in which Democrats fell just shy of the 60 votes needed to avoid a GOP filibuster — marks a major setback for President Obama, who has railed against the influence of special interests in elections and pushed for the legislation as a counterpoint to court rulings freeing up the use of corporate money in politics.
The development also represents a significant victory for Senate Republicans and business groups, which portrayed the measure as a Democratic attempt to tilt the playing field by discouraging corporations and other likely critics from spending money on political ads. The measure is the latest in a series of Democratic initiatives that have been approved by the House only to die in the Senate, including comprehensive climate-change legislation abandoned last week.
Opponents of the Disclose Act — which would force corporations, unions and other groups to reveal the donors behind their political ads — said the vote marked a victory for free-speech rights, including the rights of corporations to spend as much as they want on political advertising.
“This bill is a partisan effort, pure and simple,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said before the vote. “. . . This bill is about protecting incumbent Democrats from criticism ahead of the November election.”
Democrats, however, portrayed the legislation as an attempt to force transparency on political advertising by outside groups and corporations, activity that is often cloaked in anonymity and is now largely unrestrained by campaign finance restrictions. Party leaders signaled Tuesday that they will seek to make the issue part of a broader line of attack on Republicans as backing corporate interests on such issues as Wall Street reform and the health-care overhaul.