July 18, 2012

VIDEO: Pro-Disclosure Democrats Were Anti-Disclosure In 2006

The DISCLOSE Act failed to overcome a Republican filibuster again last night, dooming the bill in the Senate. Democrats are pushing the bill to help reveal the donors of outside special interest groups that are dumping millions of dollars into the election anonymously. Republicans unanimously oppose the bill.

But in 2006, things were very different. The two sides were wrangling over a bill that would’ve placed greater restrictions on outside election spending by so-called “527” groups and also required more transparency. Although the bill was not perfect, in that it would’ve freed up party committees to spend more money, it had the support of reform groups and was generally considered to be constructive in reining in the problem of corruption.

Republicans largely supported the bill and Democrats largely opposed it — for simple reasons. 527 groups were mostly benefiting the Democrats at the time, and the Republicans wanted to crack down on them in response. It ended up passing the House but failing to succeed in the Senate (Democrats also were protesting the GOP disallowing any amendments to the bill under a “closed rule”).

A number of Democrats who today back the DISCLOSE Act passionately argued against disclosure in 2006, with many of them going as far as to echo the far-right argument that regulating campaign finance harms the First Amendment. Here are some key quotes to demonstrate this:

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA):  What this proposal would do is curtail the free speech rights of millions of Americans…it limits participation in the political process.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel: (D-IL): This legislation intends to do a very partisan thing to the campaign finance laws affecting 527s.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL): I urge my colleagues, for the sake of free speech, and for the sake of a campaign process in which we all believe, to oppose this closed rule and the underlining legislation.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD): If this body were serious about reform, we’d be debating the best way to eliminate the culture of corruption, not restrict the First Amendment rights of political organizations.

Watch our video compilation of these Democrats’ remarks above.

It’s great that almost all of these very same Democrats who opposed reform measures in 2006 are backing DISCLOSE today. But the public should know that both political parties have, in the past at least, tended to only back these reforms only when they think they will be in their self-interest. Which is why Americans should demand reform irregardless of what the politicians say.