Corporate Governance

More than 300 organizations send letter opposing Disclose Act

When asked if the bill had the votes to pass the chamber, House Democratic Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) would only say that the legislation would be voted on this week. 

“Yes, it is on the floor this week,” he told reporters Wednesday. 

The bill was created in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which ruled corporations are covered under the First Amendment. The ruling essentially removed campaign funding limits for these organizations. 

The legislation enhances disclosure rules for campaigns by requiring major backers to appear at the end of commercials for their candidate and announce that they sponsored the ad. The top five organizations that donate to the ad must also be disclosed. 

But to the 300-plus organizations opposing the bill, it tramples First Amendment rights, forcing large political donors to publicly disclose their names, which could intimidate some from making contributions. 

“The bill’s drafters also have carefully calibrated the donor-disclosure requirements to ensure that union members can continue to speak anonymously, while corporate donors will be ‘outed,’ ” the letter states. “The legislation would require corporations and labor unions to report donors who have given as little as $600 during the year. … Because the average union member pays annual dues beneath that threshold — the average dues of the fifteen largest U.S. labor unions were less than $400 in 2004 — most unions would not be required to disclose donors’ identities even when they spend millions of dollars on political advertising.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) authored the House bill. His spokesman, Doug Thornell, recently told The Hill that efforts to oppose the bill are the “last acts of desperation from powerful special interest groups to keep the American people in the dark” when it comes to uncovering influential political donors.

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