- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Senate Democratic leaders vowed Wednesday to revive a failed bill that calls for strict disclosure requirements on political campaign donations for ads paid for by corporations, unions and other organizations.

The bill’s main author, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said he reluctantly agreed to several changes to the so-called “Disclose Act,” including pushing back the effective date until January — after the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

Democrats say they expected to bring the bill to the Senate floor on Thursday.

“The public is under siege by advertising from shadowy special-interest groups,” Mr. Schumer said. “Americans want to know who’s behind these ads, and efforts to keep the source of this funding will not go unnoticed by voters.”

Senate Republicans in July used a filibuster to block the measure after it had cleared the House, arguing the measure would stifle free speech.

The legislation is a direct response to the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in January that struck down most limits on corporate and union spending in elections on the grounds that they violated First Amendment guarantees of free speech. That case, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, prompted President Obama to chastise the court during his State of the Union speech this year.

The bill calls for new donor- and contribution-disclosure requirements on most groups that spend money on political advertisements, but are not affiliated with a candidate or political party. The sponsor of the ad would be required to appear in the ad and claim responsibility for it.

Democrats said the Citizens United decision has allowed for more than $400 million in loosely regulated spending by corporations to influence elections this year.

“The Disclose Act is necessary to prevent corruption in our political system, and to protect the credibility of our elections,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.

“There is no longer any doubt that the ability of wealthy corporations to dominate all mediums of advertising risks quieting the voices of individuals.”

But Republicans say the bill is more about politics and boosting the Democrats’ cozy relationship with unions than it is about constitutional principles.

“After spending the past year-and-a-half enacting policies Americans don’t like, they want to prevent their opponents from being able to criticize what they’ve done,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and a longtime critic of government-imposed restrictions on campaign spending. “They’re trying to rig the system to their advantage.”

Mr. Schumer said he is open to discussions on other possible changes to the measures “as long as the fundamental heart of this bill — disclosure and disclaimer — are kept.”