As expected, Republicans filibustered the DISCLOSE Act last night, as the legislation that would have forced disclosure on political campaign expenditures failed 51-44. Republicans who voted all united against the bill, and they were joined by West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who is sure to have a wide variety of independent expenditure ads funded by secret donors against him in his re-election campaign. Harry Reid voted against the bill as a procedural matter, to ensure that he could call it up again for reconsideration.
And in fact, Democrats did hold a midnight vigil for for the bill in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue and who was blocking progress on it. A band of Democrats, including Jeanne Shaheen, Al Franken, Robert Menendez, Sherrod Brown and Sheldon Whitehouse, spoke on the DISCLOSE Act until 1am last night.
“For the last two years, our Democracy has been hijacked by powerful special interests, and tonight we had the opportunity to begin repairing the fabric of our nation’s democracy before permanent damage is done,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said as the debate began. “Unfortunately, Republicans decided not to put our democracy back on the right track.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and several others proceeded to the floor to cite examples of how groups are trying to influence elections, without giving voters any way to find out who is behind the message.
“I rise… because the corporations involved and the investors are flooding our elections with campaign money,” Brown said. “We don’t really know who the money’s from. We can guess. In my state, we think it’s from oil companies, we think it’s Wall Street banks, we think it could be money from Chinese interests.”
Senators like Menendez and Brown have been using opposition to unscrupulous, secretly-funded attack ads as part of their re-election campaigns, so the all-nighter served a dual purpose.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly called the action a waste of time during a fragile economic recovery, something he managed not to say when the House of Representatives passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act for the 33rd time last week.
President Obama’s statement decried the flow of millions of dollars in dark money into elections, saying “If we allow this practice to continue, special interests will have unprecedented influence over politicians.” I didn’t know that special interests had minimal influence over politicians before 2010, but there you have it. Obama said that Republicans “stood with big banks and oil companies” by blocking the vote.
The plan is for Reid to call for an additional vote on the DISCLOSE Act today.