Third time not the charm for disclosure bill

Bill that would unmask funders of attack ads fails again

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A second attempt in two days to move the DISCLOSE Act to a yes-or-no vote failed Tuesday afternoon in the U.S. Senate, falling seven votes short of the 60 needed to advance.

Democrats had held out hope that debate — which ran from the close of Monday night’s failed vote until 1 a.m. and through Tuesday afternoon — would convince moderate Republicans to vote in favor of the legislation.

For his part, campaign finance reform champion Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., put an end to any speculation he might change his mind with a speech late Tuesday morning arguing that the DISCLOSE Act is inherently unfair and partisan.

“Reform is necessary,” McCain said. “But, again, it must be fair and just, and this legislation before us is not.”

But one Republican sounded ready to break rank.

“The American people deserve to know who is really behind the organizations, who funds them, [and] what their real agendas are,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in a surprisingly supportive speech before Tuesday’s vote. (She was absent for Monday’s vote).

But when it came to going on the record, Murkowski voted no. Her office did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but in her speech, she recognized this version would never pass the Senate.

Tuesday’s vote is the second in two days and the third in the Senate since the original DISCLOSE Act was introduced in 2010. DISCLOSE would require nonprofits, unions, corporations and super PACs, once they’ve made $10,000 in independent expenditures, to report all donors who have given $10,000 or more.

The 2010 version of DISCLOSE, which included several non-disclosure related provisions, fell only one vote short of the 60 necessary to invoke cloture and move the bill to a full yes-or-no vote in the Senate.

Monday night’s vote on DISCLOSE 2.0, a streamlined version dealing only with disclosure, fell nine votes short, with all Republicans present voting no. All Democrats present voted yes except for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., whose vote was a procedural tactic so another cloture vote could be brought up Tuesday.

“I’m disappointed that so many of my Republican colleagues, many of whom have clearly supported disclosure in the past, chose today to defend secret spending by special interests,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., the bill’s primary sponsor, after Monday night’s vote.

It has been widely noted that McCain, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and several other Republicans have spoken out in favor of disclosure in the past, but GOP leaders, backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have led the fight against the bill, the Center for Public Integrity reported in June.

For the time being, the debate over DISCLOSE in the Senate has ended, said Seth Larson, a Whitehouse spokesman.

The House version of the DISCLOSE Act, H.R. 4010, has been stuck in committee since February, but thanks to a discharge petition brought by the bill’s primary House sponsor, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., it may soon hit the floor of the House.