Today, the Senate is expected to vote on the DISCLOSE Act, a bill aimed at countering the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United. To address the new problem of direct corporate spending in elections, the DISCLOSE Act would institute a mixture of disclosure measures and restrictions on certain kind of independent expenditures. Corporations would be required to disclose their involvement in independent campaign spending, and would ban spending by federal contractors, domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations, and federal bailout recipients that haven't repaid the government. Moreover, the bill would require corporations to file electronic spending reports to the FEC, as well as provide a public searchable database for those reports.
The bill does have its problematic elements; most notably, its exemptions for massive organizations like the NRA. On the whole though, the DISCLOSE Act is a good bill, and it has earned strong support from reform-minded organizations like the Sunlight Foundation and the People for American Way. That said, the bill isn't likely to pass; GOP leadership has already committed to filibustering the bill, and Republican moderates Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, and Scott Brown are expected to join. Of course, Majority Leader Harry Reid probably knows this is a futile vote; as Lisa Rosenberg at the Sunlight Foundation points out, it's likely that this is an attempt to tar Republicans as completely beholden to special interests.
Still, it would be nice to have a bill. Transparency is key to a well-functioning campaign-finance system, and the DISCLOSE Act would go a long way toward ensuring that the public knows exactly where the money is coming from.
-- Jamelle Bouie