“In its current form, the DISCLOSE Act is closer to a clever attempt at political gamesmanship, than actual reform. By conveniently setting high thresholds for reporting requirements, the DISCLOSE Act forces some entities to inform the public about the origins of their financial support, while allowing others—most notably those affiliated with organized labor – to fly below the Federal Election Commission’s regulatory radar.”
Given that McCain built his alleged maverick persona based in large part on campaign finance reform—when he bucked his party and crafted legislation along with Senator Russ Feingold to reign in soft-money abuses—he had to give some sort of explanation for why he voted against a bill that simply required disclosure from big donors, and was very much in line with even the Citizen’s United decision.
Unfortunately, his explanation doesn’t make much sense.
The bill text says, “Any covered organization that makes campaign-related disbursements aggregating more than $10,000 in an election reporting cycle shall, not later than 24 hours after each disclosure date, file a statement with the Commission made under penalty of perjury” that discloses what expenditures were made and who donated to them.
“Covered organizations” are defined as “Corporations, Labor Organizations, and Certain Other Entities” that expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate.
So under that language, any group that hits $10,000 cumulatively in an election disclosure cycle must file a report—whether it’s the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity or the Service Employees International Union.
In his statement McCain suggests the “high threshold” would allow “organized labor” to fly below the radar, which is hard to parse. (See update below for a look at what McCain means about high thresholds; he elaborated on the Senate floor today.)
“In this case, he tells me that there’s something in my bill that favors unions. I don’t see it. It’s $10,000 across the board,” Whitehouse said. “I keep saying, ‘John, tell me what it is and we’ll talk about it,’ and nobody has ever been able to show me what it is.”
UPDATE: Senator McCain took to the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon and delivered a more expansive explanation of his opposition. It deserves a closer look, but is no more convincing than his shorter statement.