Monday, June 21, 2010

Expanding Electioneering Disclosure - Except for AARP, NRA & Sierra Club?

Normally I would wait for the legislative dust to settle, but the most recent developments with respect to the DISCLOSE Act (how would like to be the congressional staffer that had to come up with a name to fit that acronym) are too good to skip.  For those of you who have not been following this bill, or rather bills since there is a House version (H.R. 5175) and a Senate version (S. 3295), it is Congress' attempt to counter the effects of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision striking down long-standing bans on corporations spending their general funds on certain types of election-related communications.  As the name suggests, a major component of the bill is required disclosure of who pays for such communications, including significant donors to any organization that engage in such communications.

While more knowledgeable commentators than me have predicted that passage of the bill is unlikely, the interesting recent development is the attempt to carve out an exception for certain powerful nonprofit organizations so they would not actively oppose the bill.  In a nutshell and as reported widely in the press, the House Democrats sought to blunt threatened opposition from the National Rifle Association by creating an exception for section 501(c)(4) organizations that have existed for at least 10 years, derive no more than 15 percent of their funding from corporate or union sources, have a presence in all U.S. states, and have more than 1 million dues-paying members - a description that appears to only match the NRA and possibly the AARP.  A change to reduce the members threshold to 500,000 may have expanded the exception to include the Sierra Club (which still opposes the bill even with this expansion). Nevertheless, press reports indicate that the proposed exception may have created as many opponents as it eliminated, dooming whatever chances the bill had for passage in the House, much less the Senate where passage was already highly uncertain.

Coverage:  The AtlanticWire; CQPoliticsNY Times; Washington Post.


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