A bill that would require groups that run political ads attacking candidates to disclose their donors fell nine votes short of moving ahead Monday night in the U.S. Senate.
The DISCLOSE Act drew 51 votes, a majority, but still nine votes shy of the 60-vote threshold needed to end debate and move it to a yes-or-no vote on the Senate floor. Forty-four votes were cast in opposition.
Republicans and Democrats each stuck to their party lines with the exception of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who voted no in a procedural tactic so that he can bring the bill up again on Tuesday.
Democrats are hoping to convince moderate Republicans including Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Susan Collins of Maine, to vote in favor of the legislation.
The outcome was no surprise. From the time DISCLOSE was first introduced in 2010 to when DISCLOSE 2.0 was introduced in this March by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has led the fight against it.
DISCLOSE would require super PACs, nonprofits, corporations and unions to disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more once the group has exceeded $10,000 in campaign spending.
Donor disclosure has become especially important since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for unlimited secret money to fuel political attack ads.
“We recognize that you don’t win every fight in round one, and this is a fight worth continuing,” said Whitehouse in a press release.
Campaign finance reformers did not expect the bill to pass this Congress, but Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, sees it as a way to hold senators who oppose the legislation accountable “for the future scandals that occur because of secret money.”
Disclosure wasn’t always a bipartisan issue. Even McConnell supported disclosure at one point, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2000 that “Republicans are in favor of disclosure.”
“I’m prepared to go down that road,” he said on the show. “So what we ought to do is broaden the disclosure to include at least labor unions and tax-exempt business associations and trial lawyers so that you include the major political players in America.”
The DISCLOSE Act has been substantially slimmed down in an attempt to garner support. The new bill dropped disclaimer requirements and changed the effective date until after the November election, the Center for Public Integrity reported.
This is the second time DISCLOSE has failed a cloture vote in the Senate. The first was in 2010 when a more ambitious version fell one vote short. Whitehouse is holding a “midnight vigil” to continue debate on the bill in an attempt to garner more support before a second attempt Tuesday.