Scott Brown

Senator Scott Brown opposes the DISCLOSE Act, again.

Well, it turns out our sitting senator once again voted against the needs of the electorate, just as he did in 2010.  His two arguments against the bill this year are repeated verbatim from 2010.  Namely, 1) the bill “does not do enough to require transparency, accountability, and fair play;” and 2) “key requirements of the bill would not have applied to labor unions and other special interest groups.”  He also cites that 450 groups from “across the political spectrum” opposed the bill, and generally thinks that “the legislation attempts to advance the political agenda of one party and of certain special interests to gain a tactical advantage.”

So, let’s go into his arguments.

1) The bill “does not do enough to require transparency, accountability, and fair play.”

Senator Brown criticizes the bill for not doing enough to promote good disclosure practices, yet, what is his proposed alternative? Absolutely nothing. He offers no examples as to what would supposedly make the bill stronger.  What’s worse, I’ve looked through his entire record of bill sponsorship and co-sponsorship as a US Senator.  He has sponsored a grand total of zero bills which address independent spending on campaigns in any way, let alone those shining a light on the hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money currently flooding our elections since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.  This fact suggests that he is arguing this point in obstinacy and bad faith.

2) “Key requirements of the bill would not have applied to labor unions and other special interest groups.”

This is where the propaganda begins. Although Senator Brown is mum on what “key requirements” he is specifically referencing, he is pointing to the requirement that a campaign-related donation to an organization must be a minimum of $10,000; otherwise a group is not burdened with reporting it.  His oft-parroted argument that labor unions have some special carve-out is blatantly false. The $10,000 threshold would allow any organization relying on small-dollar membership dues to skip disclosing every single donor, as these tiny amounts are not helpful to the public’s knowledge of special-interest campaign spending.  Lisa Rosenberg of the Sunlight Foundation illuminates further: “By setting the disclosure thresholds relatively high, the bill is intended to capture only contributions that, due to their size, could corrupt or appear to corrupt the political process. It is true that the names of average dues paying union members will not be listed on disclosure reports filed by unions, as individual dues will likely be far smaller than the $10,000 threshold. Neither will the names of donors to a nonprofit organization like the Sierra Club or a trade association like the Chamber of Commerce be listed if their dues or contributions do not exceed the $10,000 threshold. There is no differentiation based exclusively on union membership.”

For all of the campaign niceties about Scott Brown being able to work both sides of the aisle, working hard for the people of Massachusetts, and all the rest of it; in this instance, when it really matters to the health of our democracy and the power of voters to know who’s behind the hundreds of millions of dollars in post-Citizens United ad spending, Scott Brown has turned against us.  In this instance he walks lock-step with Sen. Mitch McConnell’s and the Republican Party’s campaign of misinformation against disclosure, helping to keep voters dumb.

Here is Scott Brown’s letter to me about the DISCLOSE Act:

Dear Mr. Friedman,

Thank you for your letter regarding the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act (DISCLOSE) Act (S. 3369). As always, I value the input of my constituents on all issues, and appreciate hearing from you.

The DISCLOSE Act was originally introduced in 2010, purportedly as a response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. While small changes were made to superficially address certain concerns, the newest version, introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), does not do enough to require transparency, accountability and fair play. Rather than reform our campaign finance laws and provide increased transparency, the legislation attempts to advance the political agenda of one party and of certain special interests to gain a tactical advantage.

My election to the U.S. Senate sent a message that the people of Massachusetts are tired of the politics-as-usual, but the action of the majority to force repeated consideration of the DISCLOSE Act ignores this message. One especially troubling aspect of the DISCLOSE Act is that it does not treat all organizations equally. For example, because of the way certain organizations are funded, key requirements of the bill would not have applied to labor unions and other special interest groups. Transparency that is good for some, should be good for all.

These and other troubling provisions are why more than 450 other groups from across the political spectrum—ranging from such ideological opposites as the National Right to Life Committee and the ACLU—opposed the bill. These groups recognized that the DISCLOSE Act was based on partisan politics instead of sound policy. I could not agree more. When dealing with rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, we should look to adopt a higher standard than the one in this bill. The people of Massachusetts expect and deserve better. It is for these reasons that on July 17, 2012, I along with 44 of my Senate colleagues voted against S. 3369.

Again, thank you for sharing your views with me. If I can be of further assistance, do not hesitate to contact me or visit my website at www.scottbrown.senate.gov.

Sincerely,
Scott P. Brown
United States Senator