Senate Republicans block bill requiring disclosure of ‘dark money’ donors

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked legislation that would require super PACs and other groups to disclose donors who gave $10,000 or more during the election cycle, dealing a blow to Democrats’ efforts to reform campaign finance laws .

In a procedural vote Thursday morning, the Senate failed to advance the Disclosure Act by a 49-49 vote along partisan lines. No Republicans voted yes. The Senate needs at least 60 votes to close debate on the bill and move it forward.

Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling, spending by corporations and the super-rich through so-called dark-money syndicates has soared in the election cycle Citizens United v Forward, This allows legal entities and unions to spend unlimited money to promote or attack candidates. Democrats have unsuccessfully opposed the ruling for more than a decade, saying the ability of corporations and billionaires to support or oppose candidates anonymously through these groups has given them enormous leverage in U.S. politics. Republicans have defended the right of companies to make political donations, although some of them have called for greater transparency in campaign finance.

Before Thursday’s vote, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) noted that when the Supreme Court Citizens Unitedthe dissenting judge warned that the ruling “threatens to undermine the integrity of the nation’s elected institutions.”

“Sadly, they turned out to be right,” Schumer said. “By giving big corporations the same rights as individual citizens, billionaires are able to have their say… drown out citizens’ opinions and throw out decades of campaign finance laws and pave the way for a powerful elite , pumping cash almost endlessly, Citizens United Make our democracy almost beyond recognition. “

“The choice now before the Senate is simple. Will members vote today to cure our democracy to cure the black money cancer, or will they stand in the way and allow this disease to spread beyond control?” Schumer added. “Members have to choose a side. Which side do you support? Is it the American voters and the ‘one man one vote’ side, or the side where the super PAC and the billionaire donor class rig the game to their advantage?”

senator. The bill’s sponsor, Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.), likened these dark money groups to “dark octopuses of corruption and deceit” that have infiltrated democratic institutions. While federal law prohibits super PACs from coordinating with political campaigns on spending and content, Whitehouse added that “you can bet” candidates — and lawmakers — will get that information anyway.

“This is the kind of fake fun and game that black money allows to invade our democracy,” Whitehouse said.

Senators at a July committee hearing on the bill. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called the measure “unconstitutional” and accused Democrats of designing it “to target and harass speech that the left doesn’t like.”

Earlier this week, President Biden called on Republicans to join Democrats in supporting the Disclosure Act. In remarks from the White House, Biden cited the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as saying his “friend” supports campaign finance reform as a matter of fundamental fairness. He noted that current advocacy groups can run ads ahead of Election Day without revealing who paid for the ads, and that even foreign entities not allowed to participate in political campaigns can use black money loopholes to try to influence elections.

“In the best case scenario, our democracy serves all people equally, both wealth and privilege,” Biden said at the time. “But here’s the thing: there’s too much — too much — flowing in the shadows to influence our elections…Dark money has become so common in our politics, I believe sunlight is the best sanitizer agent.”

Biden said dark money groups are a problem for Republicans and Democrats alike, but said Republicans in Congress so far have not supported passing new campaign finance laws to address the problem.

“Ultimately, it comes down to public trust. Dark money erodes public trust,” Biden said. “We need to protect the public’s trust. And I am determined to do so.”

John Wagner and Azi Paybarah contributed to this report.

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