Next Congress likely to be dominated even more by special interests

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  • Dale Eisman

Senate rejects full floor debate on DISCLOSE

Today’s failure by the Senate to even consider the DISCLOSE Act means that Congress, and the Senate in particular, is about to face American voters having done nothing to counter the most serious attack in years on fairness and transparency in our political system.

The vote means that corporations, including those based overseas, plus unions and other special interests will likely be free to pour as much money as they like into this fall’s campaigns, without having to reveal their activities to anyone, including their shareholders. This results from a US Supreme Court decision in a case known as Citizens United that earlier this year lifted a decades-old ban on corporate and union spending around elections. The Senate today voted against proceeding to a full floor debate on the DISCLOSE bill, which was introduced as a response to Citizens United. The bill has already cleared the US House

“Today’s vote means that the next Congress will be more firmly in the grasp of special interests,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It means that big corporations will continue to pay a smaller percent of income tax than the average working family, that action to break our dependence on foreign oil will be delayed yet again, that politicians will continue to be accountable to corporations and the lobbyists who finance their campaigns rather than to everyday Americans. Does anyone seriously think that this is what voters want?”

The 111th Congress still has an opportunity to show constituents that it cares about voters.

The Fair Elections Now Act (HR 1826 and S 752) would allow members of Congress and Congressional candidates to focus on the interests of their constituents, instead of the special interests who pay for their campaigns. Under Fair Elections, candidates would be able to run competitive campaigns on a blend of Fair Elections Funds and small dollar donations. The legislation has broad, bipartisan, and cross-caucus support from 157 co-sponsors in the U.S. House and 22 in the U.S. Senate.

A century ago, as President Obama observed Monday, Theodore Roosevelt warned us that corporate campaign spending is “one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs.” The Fair Elections Now Act would give the rest of us a weapon against that corruption.

Congress should pass it, NOW!