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
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