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.

  • It is clear that the kind of strong reforms we urgently need won’t be achieved simply by electing a new president or new members of Congress.
    ~ Katrina vanden Heuvel

    • so…you’re saying we have a broken democracy.
      the corporations, who, let’s face it, came over from england, are perfectly happy to see nothing change.
      in the meanwhile, (they will) let the planet burn.

      • Yes, I definitely believe that we have a broken democracy. However, I am cautious about casting blame on corporations. First, the majority of “corporations” are actually single-person entities. Second, the majority of “corporations” with more than one employee do not lobby the government, do not donate campaign contributions, are not publicly-traded and contribute greatly to our society. Third, the minority of “corporations”, those willing to “let the planet burn”, are behaving under the express consent by and protection by the government. Therefore, in my opinion, fix the government.
        My reference to a quote regarding the futility in electing new people is because with the influence of money on our political system, we end up with candidates who are screened for their likelihood to support the existing broken system. I just read an article today in the Financial Times by Jon Huntsman “True Conservatives Despise America’s Crony Capitalism” where he wrote, “Ultimately, to address the trust deficit between citizens and their government, we must change the incentive structure in our capital city. Term limits for Congress, sensible campaign finance reform and stopping the revolving door for those in Congress and the White House are at the core of these changes.” Is there any doubt as to why he is not a candidate for President right now?

        • CatKinNY

          Don’t forget, Shelly, Huntsman was also dumb enough to admit in a GOP primary that he believed in evolution and climate change!

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  • CatKinNY

    The irony is that ordinary Americans of every stripe, from the farthest left drum circle attendee to the tinfoil hat wearing birther all agree that Citizens United is a crock and we want the money out of politics, but if we can’t have publicly financed campaigns, we want to know who is contributing what so we can draw our own conclusions as to why.

    • Your point about ordinary Americans is supported by the polls. I have found these three http://goo.gl/3BgmX & http://goo.gl/zM2Nm & http://goo.gl/jOas6. The political system ‘as is’ does serve our 2 party system and I agree with Zaid’s point that both political parties back reforms when they think it will be in their self-interest. “We the people” must focus on joining together as “outsiders” vs. “insiders” to force the necessary strong reforms onto our political system instead of continuing the failed strategy of dividing ourselves up among party lines. Unfortunately history proves that this action only strengthens the insiders at the expense of the outsiders. Our political system is working against us instead of for us.

      • CatKinNY

        Jay Gould, one of our greatest robber barons, once observed “I can pay half the working class to kill the other half.” After the successes of the Progressive Era, that ceased to be true, and remained so for a long time. The Gilded Age is back. Unfortunately, the majority of 21st century Americans are not as politically sophisticated as were their ancestors. These are frightening times.

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