And the worst office party gift this year is…

A new incarnation of DISCLOSE! According to the Washington Post, one problem facing this country is a “broken campaign finance” system that contributed to a “flood” of money into this year’s election and was, of course, caused by the Citizen’s United decision that allowed outside spending to play a major role in 2012.

A notable portion of this outside money has flowed to nonprofit, tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations, which launched huge advertising blitzes in the campaign. These organizations, known as 501(c)(4) groups for the section of the Internal Revenue Code that governs them, must report their donors to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) but do not have to disclose them to the public. Some became important players this year: Crossroads GPS, founded by Republicans Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, and Priorities USA, which supported President Obama, to name two. By contrast, so-called super PACs, another part of the big-money rush, are subject to rules that require public disclosure of their donors.

This post-election, “big money is the devil” reporting is, of course, timed PERFECTLY to coincide with an effort on the Hill to resurrect (for the billionth time?) the DISCLOSE Act, which is being pushed by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

“[She] has been talking with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and other ‘interested parties’ about drafting a new version of the Disclose Act, which would require outside political groups to disclose the identities of their biggest donors.”

Of course, those familiar with DISCLOSE legislation recognize that it is less about making sure there’s no third-party, special interest corruption or election buying, and more about silencing political opponents. Georgia Congressman Rob Woodall (R) rightly draws a distinction between disclosure to prevent corruption and violations of privacy that will lead to potential secondary — if not outright — boycotts.

“‘We’re all in favor of disclosure, so it seems very easy to put your name on something called the Disclose Act, but don’t be confused. The Disclose Act is not about creating more disclosure. It’s about targeting one group, one set of donors and trying to create [a] chilling effect,’  said Rob Woodall (R-Ga.).”

Thankfully, when he’s not challenging non-serious offers on the fiscal cliff by calling the White House’s bluff, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) is pushing to remind his colleagues in the House of the mendacity of DISCLOSE legislation.

McConnell, who challenged the 2002 campaign finance reform law in court, is now laying the groundwork before the start of the new Congress to ensure any effort to build support among Republicans for a version of the Disclose Act does not gain momentum. 

Looks like donors to President Obama’s super PAC Priorities USA Action can have a happy holiday season knowing they have a defender like McConnell on the Hill fighting for their right to privacy and free speech.



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The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.