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House OKs disclosure bill.

Byline: The Register-Guard

A tepid campaign finance disclosure bill that has only a slight chance in the U.S. Senate was approved (barely) by the House of Representatives on Thursday.

This is the best the House Democrats could do in framing a response to last January's Supreme Court decision that removed all limits on election spending by corporations, unions and other big players.

At the time, the court effectively told critics: The way to make up for the loss of spending limits is to impose disclosure requirements so that everyone will know who put up the money for which attack ads and other common campaign weapons.

The bill that passed the House 219 to 206, with 36 Democrats defecting, would require disclosure of sponsorship. And it would ban any participation in American elections by corporations under foreign control.

But in order to round up enough votes, the majority had to include exemptions for several powerful and politically active organizations such as the National Rifle Association and the Sierra Club. That's sad.

Republicans charged that the Democrats weren't really as interested in campaign finance transparency as in preserving their control of Congress in this year's midterm elections. That's a puzzling complaint since the disclosure requirements would apply to all political ad sponsors of a certain size regardless of their partisan preferences. But it didn't help to have the chief sponsor of the measure, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, be chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this year. That means he is in charge of trying to get Democrats elected or re-elected to Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her colleagues: "With this bill, no longer will corporations be able to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. By voting yes, we are putting power back into the hands of the voters."

To be generous, that is hyperbole. Even if the measure made it into law in its original pure form, it would have robbed none of the affected businesses or other ad-sponsoring organizations of their political power. They could still spend as much as they wished on candidates or causes of their choosing.

It would be useful for voters to see who is spending how much on what. But that transparency would represent only mild reform.

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Title Annotation:Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 26, 2010
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