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Campaign Finance Transparency Bill Gets Chilly Reception In Senate

A bill that would require transparency by nonprofit groups related to federal elections met with united opposition from Republicans Wednesday, at the first Senate hearing on what its supporters call the Disclose Act.

The legislation would require any politically active group that spends more than $10,000 to list its donors. It was introduced last month, with 52 senators listed as its sponsors or co-sponsors (including the chamber's two independents).

NPR's Peter Overby reports:

"Non-profit groups are now powerful players in elections. But the usual disclosure laws don't cover them.

"Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said political transparency is good for democracy.

"'No one's allowed to speak in a Maine town meeting with a bag over their head,' he said. 'Who the speaker is is part of the information, and that's the purest form of political speech in our country today.'"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said disclosure would chill donors' free speech.

"'Let me be blunt,' he said. 'This proposal is little more than a crude intimidation tactic masquerading as good government.'"

Since 2010, two other versions of the Disclose Act have failed."

In addition to the $10,000 threshold for disclosure, the legislation also seeks to widen the "election window" that affects when transparency rules apply. It would also add a rule targeting the use of third-party corporations to funnel money anonymously.

That's according to The Hill, which adds, "Since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, outside spending in federal elections has skyrocketed."

As Roll Call reports, Senate Democrats who are unhappy with recent Supreme Court rulings that have lifted many restrictions on political money are also considering a possible constitutional amendment on campaign spending.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.