The Senate is failing to move forward with the Biden-backed campaign finance bill, which would require political groups to disclose major donors.
Washington, D.C. – US Senate Republicans have blocked a bill aimed at tackling “dark money” in US elections by requiring political organizations to disclose major donors.
The Disclose Act, approved by President Joe Biden earlier this week, found no support from Republicans in a procedural vote on Thursday.
With just 49 lawmakers voting in favor of it in the 100-seat Senate, the bill did not cross the 60-vote threshold required for a final vote.
“We all want transparent and fair elections. But those ends are not served by restricting Americans’ First Amendment rights — which the DISCLOSE Act would do,” Republican Senator Bill Hagerty wrote on Twitter. “Because this legislation encourages intimidation and reverts culture rather than free speech, I voted against.”
Democrats had argued the bill was necessary to increase transparency in the electoral process amid increased spending by political groups with diverse ideological leanings.
The bill’s lead sponsor, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, on Thursday berated interest groups trying to influence US politics with “unlimited money” while hiding their identities.
“Is this group of people who we want to control our country? I don’t think so,” Whitehouse said in a Senate speech. “What about ordinary voters, what about ordinary people – farmers and doctors and business owners, nurses?”
Under US law, political action committees — commonly referred to as PACs — and individuals can only donate limited funds directly to political candidates.
But in a 2010 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the protections of free speech guaranteed by the US Constitution’s First Amendment give companies the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to indirectly reject or endorse candidates.
In addition, some political interest groups are not required to disclose their donors. Others disguise funding through front organizations that make it difficult, if not impossible, to trace the money back to the original donors.
“Our current campaign finance system allows anonymous special interests to hide in the shadows as they spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections, making Americans skeptical that their elected officials are actually working for them,” the White House said in a statement ahead of Thursday’s vote.
“In our current system, it’s too easy for foreign money to sway our elections.”
BREAKING: Senate Republicans just did filibuster #DISCLOSURE Act to stem the tide of anonymous special spending in our elections – which means they don’t want the American people to see who is trying to influence our elections and take control of our government.
— Senate Judiciary Committee (@JudicaryDems) 09/22/2022
Biden also made comments Tuesday in support of the bill, saying dark money undermines “public trust” in government.
Biden acknowledged that unlimited political spending is a problem for both major parties, but said Congressional Democrats “support more openness and accountability,” while Republicans have dismissed calls for campaign finance reform.
“Dark money has become so commonplace in our politics. I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Biden said.