(S. 3369) On a motion to end debate and hold a final, up-or-down vote on legislation requiring disclosure of the identity of wealthy donors who help corporations, labor unions, nonprofits, and other organizations influence elections
This vote was on a motion to end debate and hold a final, up-or-down vote on legislation requiring disclosure of the identity of wealthy donors who help corporations, labor unions, nonprofits, and other organizations influence elections.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the bill in an attempt to unmask the wealthy donors who fund groups that seek to influence U.S. elections. Sen. Whitehouse’s bill would have affected organizations that spent more than $10,000 on political campaigns. Those organizations would have been required to disclose donors who give more than $10,000. However, before the Senate could vote on the bill, it had to pass a motion for “cloture,” which sets a time at which the otherwise unlimited debate would come to an end.
Supporters of Sen. Whitehouse’s bill argued that requiring disclosure of wealthy donors was a small but vital step toward protecting the integrity of American democracy. Americans have the right to know the identities of millionaires and billionaires who fund political groups in an attempt to sway the electorate, they argued.
“Anonymous spending by so-called nonprofits, often backed by huge corporate donors or a few wealthy individuals, used to make up 1 percent of election spending. This year it will make up well over half of the spending,” Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said. “Voters in Nevada and across the country deserve to know who paid for these ads.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who opposed the bill, argued that it was actually an attempt to silence critics of Democrats and President Obama. He also accused Democrats of favoring unions in the bill. Since most union money comes from mandatory dues from members, few donors would rise above the $10,000 mark, he said.
“The Founders envisioned a nation in which speech would be promoted as widely as possible. That is what the First Amendment is all about, particularly when it comes to the political process,” Sen. McConnell said. “Democrats can call this bill whatever they want, but they cannot conceal its true intent, which is to encourage their allies and discourage their critics from exercising their first amendment right to speak their mind. If Democrats do not like the level playing field ensured by the first amendment and reaffirmed by Citizens United, they should do a better job convincing the American people of the wisdom of their policies and focus on real problems instead of inventing ones that do not exist.”
Even though the motion to end debate and hold a vote on the campaign donation disclosure bill received 51 “yea” votes and only 44 voted “nay,” the motion failed because it was brought up under Senate rules that require 60 votes for passage. Voting “yea” were 51 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 43 Republicans. Sen. Reid also voted “nay” because this allows him to call for a re-vote on the matter at a later date. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to end debate and hold a final, up-or-down vote on legislation requiring disclosure of the identity of wealthy donors who help corporations, labor unions, nonprofits, and other organizations influence elections.