(The Hill) – Senate Republicans voted Thursday to block consideration of a bill requiring organizations that spend money on elections to quickly disclose the identities of donors who donate $10,000 or more during an election cycle.
The body did not invoke the closure of the measure, in a 49-49 vote. Every Republican present voted against the measure, while every Democrat voted for it.
Sens Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) were not present for the decision.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) introduced the bill to underscore the dependence of Republican Senate candidates on huge inflows from black money groups in the GOPs, such as the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to the Senate minority. Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), according to Democratic senators familiar with Schumer’s thinking.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.), has been a top priority for Democrats since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that allowed corporations and other outside special interest groups to spend unlimited amounts on federal elections. .
Schumer said Thursday morning that the court’s decision more than a decade ago “has disfigured our democracy almost beyond recognition.”
The Democratic leader called Thursday’s vote a defining issue ahead of the election, when voters are bombarded with political television ads funded by tens of millions of dollars in anonymous donations.
“Republicans today must face the music. Either vote to bring transparency and fairness back to our elections as the vast majority of Americans want, or block this measure and share your fate with the forces of black money,” Schumer said ahead of the vote.
McConnell, a longtime opponent of campaign finance restrictions, dismissed the bill as a “liberal priority” that he said would give “unelected federal bureaucrats significantly more power over First Amendment rights and political activism of private citizens”.
He called it an “insult to the First Amendment” and criticized Democrats for introducing it instead of legislation to curb inflation or address other economic problems.
Schumer, however, noted Tuesday that McConnell had supported the donor disclosure requirement in the past.
“Even Chief McConnell used to support disclosure…then he flip-flopped 180 degrees,” Schumer said, citing McConnell’s 1997 statement that he thought disclosure was “the best disinfectant.” .
Republicans blocked the disclosure law earlier this session when Democrats introduced it as part of a broader electoral reform bill.
The bill would also require groups that spend money on ads supporting or opposing judicial nominees to disclose their donors, a top priority for Whitehouse, who has regularly spoken in the Senate to highlight the influence of spending by conservative groups on the Supreme Court.
Whitehouse noted in a press release issued before the vote that political spending by groups that do not disclose their donors has increased from $5 million in 2006 to more than $1 billion in 2020. In addition, political spending by billionaires have grown from 17 million in the 2008 election to 1.2 billion in 2020.
President Biden urged Congress to pass the bill earlier this week, calling out the growing influence of dark money in politics.
“There’s a lot — too much money flowing behind the scenes to influence our elections. This is called black money. It’s hidden. Right now, advocacy groups can run ads about issues attacking or supporting a candidate up until Election Day without outlining how that ad pays,” he said.
Democrats ahead of the vote repeatedly pointed to a $1.6 billion contribution to a nonprofit political group controlled by Leonard Leo, the co-chair of the conservative Federalist Society, which is credited with helping reshape the federal court system in recent years.
Barre Seid, a conservative businessman and donor who made his fortune running an electrical appliance manufacturing company, made the massive donation, which will fuel efforts to push the courts in a conservative direction for the years to come.