Collins skeptical of Disclose Act

Sen. Susan Colllins (R-Maine), a leading proponent of greater campaign-finance restrictions in the past, is taking issue with a bill imposing transparency in political advertisements.

Collins is one of a dwindling handful of Republicans Democrats hope to win over to support the Disclose Act, legislation the Senate will likely consider this month aimed at blunting the impact of a Supreme Court ruling lifting restrictions on corporate and union spending on political advertisements.

In a statement, Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley said Collins believes the public has a right to know who is contributing to campaigns but has concerns that the bill gives an unfair political advantage to unions over corporations.

“While Senator Collins is still reviewing the DISCLOSE Act, she has expressed concern that this legislation would move away from election laws in this country that treat unions and corporations alike,” he said. “The bill appears to provide a clear and unfair advantage to unions, while either shutting other organizations out of the election process or subjecting them to onerous reporting requirements that would not apply to unions.”

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), another Republican Democrats had hoped would vote for the bill, announced on Wednesday that he would oppose it because he thought it gave Democrats an unfair political advantage right before a potentially pivotal election. The office of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), another longtime champion of limits on campaign finance, did not respond to a request for comment. She has criticized the high court’s decision but has remained mum on whether she plans to vote for the Disclose Act.

Democrats had hoped to pass the bill in both the House and Senate by the July Fourth recess, but the measure faced unanticipated delays in the House in the face of opposition from myriad groups, from unions to the U.S. Chamber and the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Democratic leaders added carve-outs for the NRA and the Sierra Club, and Republicans have argued that corporations will be forced to disclose their top donors in ads while some unions get a pass.

“Senator Collins also believes that it is ironic that a bill aimed at curtailing special interests in the election process provides so many carve outs and exemptions that favor some grassroots organizations over others,” Kelley continued. “This too is simply unfair.”

In addition, Collins’s spokesman said the timing of the bill should not take precedent to more pressing economic matters.

“Rather than rushing to change complex campaign finance laws mid-cycle in a manner that clearly favors one political party, Congress should remain focused on addressing the economic crisis and high unemployment rate,” Kelley said.