For manufacturers and associations tracking progress of a controversial proposal to require greater campaign disclosure, there wasn't any in late September. Senate Democrats failed to advance the DISCLOSE Act for the second time, with a final vote of 59 to 39. Sixty votes were needed to break a GOP filibuster.
However, in the wake of that action, a new coalition launched in October with the aim to "ensure transparency in the expenditure of corporate funds for campaign advertising." Called the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, or CAPS, its members are government officials from five states, including the governor of Illinois.
The DISCLOSE Act, more formally identified as Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act, would have demanded greater detail by corporations and other organizations of their political spending. Additionally, as currently written it would prohibit electioneering communications by certain groups, including some government contractors and TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) recipients, and ban contributions by foreign-controlled domestic corporations.
Advocates of the Democrat-backed proposal tout greater transparency in elections as reason for passage. Its many opponents, including the trade association National Association of Manufacturers, say it threatens First Amendment freedoms and is simply a partisan move in advance of the November election. "Our nation benefits when America's job creators exercise their First Amendment rights and speak out about public policies that impact economic growth and U.S. job creation, and about political candidates' views on those and other important subjects," wrote NAM in a July letter to the Senate.
Whether the DISCLOSE Act will see new life is questionable, but efforts to drive transparency continue, as evidenced by CAPS. Like the DISCLOSE Act, the coalition's launch was prompted by the Supreme Court's January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which removed certain corporate spending limits on elections.
In related news, a separate, bipartisan coalition launched in late September with the goal of earmark reform aimed at reducing the influence of special interests.