Campaign-finance bill blocked again

Senate GOP hit measure as flawed, unfair

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An attempt by Senate Democrats to impose strict disclosure requirements on political campaign donations for ads paid for by corporations, unions and other organizations has failed for the second time this year.

Republicans on Wednesday, as they did in July, used a filibuster to block the measure on the grounds it would stifle free speech. The measure failed on a procedural vote of 59-39 - one vote shy of the 60 needed to proceed to a final vote. Two GOP lawmakers - Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas - didn’t vote, but every Republican senator in the chamber voted to keep the filibuster alive.

President Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” by the Republicans’ action on the so-called “Disclose Act,” which he called “a critical piece of legislation that would control the flood of special-interest money into our elections.”

The legislation was 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 v. Federal Election Commission, prompted the president to chastise the decision during his State of the Union speech this year.

The bill called 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 had hoped to capture at least one Republican vote to end the filibuster, but even moderate GOP lawmakers like Maine Sen. Olympia J. Snowe held firm.

The bill “does not apply equally to everyone who is engaged in campaign advertising, contains provisions that are clearly unconstitutional, and has never benefited from full public review and vetting at even a single committee hearing,” Mrs. Snowe said in a statement.

Democrats denied the measure would inhibit free speech. Instead, they said the measure was needed in order to provide greater transparency for special-interest groups that fund campaign ads without disclosing their activity.

“The bill before us has nothing to do with public financing; it simply has to do with disclosure,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, who drafted the bill.

Mr. Schumer said the Supreme Court decision created a legal loophole that allows special-interest groups to funnel money anonymously into political campaigns.

“The intent is to deceive the public and hide the real motive of those spending on these ads,” he said.

Democrats fared better earlier in the day, when they held off a Republican attempt to overturn a new law that makes it easier for certain airline and railroad workers to unionize.

The Senate voted 56-43 against a GOP resolution that would have prevented the Obama administration from enforcing the law.

Republicans, as well as the airline and railroad industries, complained the new rule could lead to drawn-out labor disputes that would hinder commerce and cause passenger delays.

The National Mediation Board rule, which earlier this year amended the Railway Labor Act of 1926, allows for the recognition of a union chapter if a simple majority of workers who cast ballots approve organizing. The previous rule required a majority of the entire work force to favor unionizing, which meant that workers who didn’t vote effectively were counted as “no” votes.

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