Nothing conveys a legislator's deep commitment to being a constructive part of the democratic process like accusing your colleagues of being complicit in stealing elections. The DISCLOSE Act, you've probably heard, failed to get past filibuster yesterday, coming in short with 57 votes. DISCLOSE was a Democratic-sponsored response to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that aimed to fight big money with transparency. Certain big donors behind ads and other campaign activities would have to be made public. It's a fairly modest response to a troubling situation. But not in the eyes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell was on NPR explaining that anyone considering supporting the bill was complicit in a bid to thwart elections themselves. "You talk about transparency," said McConnell. "This is a transparent effort to rig the fall election."
First up, it's an interesting admission from McConnell: in his eyes, disclosing certain big donors tilts the political playing field to such a degree that Republicans can't get elected. The DISCLOSE Act isn't perfect, but it's ugly bits are a testament to why it's needed; the act's artful wording that carves out an exemption for the NRA is a demonstration of just how quickly, and with what dedication, Washington can cower in the face of special interests. That pulling back the curtain on even some of who's funding pro-Republican efforts is going to hurt those Republicans -- well, that too seems to add ballast to the idea that some measure of greater transparency is needed.
But second, and what jumped out from McConnell's comments on the radio, is the Senate minority leader's casual willingness to preemptively tar any Republicans who might be expected to support the campaign finance measure on its merits, like John McCain, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and the reformer Scott Brown. McConnell let it be known to those Republicans and others that a vote in support of DISCLOSE was a vote in support of, well, criminality -- of wanting to "rig the fall" election. Quite a strong-arm tactic, even as these things go. But hey, at least he did it out in the open.