WASHINGTON – A campaign finance bill that includes disclosure requirements that raise significant civil liberties concerns failed by a procedural vote today in the Senate. By failing to invoke cloture on the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, the Senate effectively barred the bill from being voted on and blocked its passage. The House passed its version of the DISCLOSE Act in June.
While the American Civil Liberties Union supports the disclosure of large contributions to candidates as long as the disclosure does not have a chilling effect on political participation, it urged senators to vote against the DISCLOSE Act because it would fail to improve the integrity of political campaigns in any substantial way while significantly harming the speech and associational rights of Americans.
The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:
“The DISCLOSE Act would not improve the integrity of political campaigns in any substantial way but would significantly harm the speech and associational rights of Americans. We can only truly bring positive change to our elections if we continue to respect our cherished free speech rights and, unfortunately, the DISCLOSE Act does not do that. We commend the Senate for rejecting this well-intentioned but overly broad legislation.”
The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, ACLU Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel:
"The DISCLOSE Act would inflict unnecessary damage to both privacy and First Amendment rights. Small donors to small organizations risk losing anonymity while the bill allows larger, mainstream organizations to be exempt from donor disclosure. Imposing these kinds of imbalanced disclosure obligations on certain kinds of organizations would only serve to further distort the fairness of our current campaign finance laws. The Constitution guarantees all Americans the right to participate in political debate without risk or harassment or fear of embarrassment. The Senate has done the right thing by blocking the DISCLOSE Act.”