President Obama took to the Rose Garden today to urge Senate passage of a bill that would require disclosure of corporate spending in any efforts to influence federal political campaigns.
The vote is expected Tuesday, but -- like everything else in the Senate -- 60 votes would be needed to move the legislation forward. And chances appear slim.
The House has already passed a version of the DISCLOSE Act, Democrats' answer to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows corporations and unions to directly spend money on TV ads, mailings, and other political activity on behalf of or against candidates.
"Because of the Supreme Court's decision earlier this year in the Citizens United case, big corporations -- even foreign-controlled ones -- are now allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on American elections. They can buy millions of dollars worth of TV ads. And worst of all, they don't even have to reveal who's actually paying for the ads," Obama told reporters. "Instead, they can hide behind a name like 'Citizens for a Better Future' even if the more accurate name would be 'Companies for Weaker Oversight.'"
The president said such "shadow groups" were amassing tens of millions of dollars to influence the midterm elections, which would give special interests a huge amount of influence over politicians running for office. The DISCLOSE Act would require corporate political advertisers to reveal who is funding their activities and would restrict foreign corporations from spending money to influence American elections. Like the House bill, the Senate bill provides an exemption to these requirements for large interest groups such as the National Rifle Association, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society and the AARP.
The president said the requirements in the DISCLOSE Act should be "a matter of common sense" and not a partisan issue. He went on to paint Republicans who oppose the bill as standing in the way of progress -- a common administration theme this campaign season.
"The Republican leadership in the Senate is once again using every tactic and every maneuver they can to prevent the DISCLOSE Act from even coming up for an up-or-down vote, just like they did with unemployment insurance for Americans who'd lost their jobs in this recession, just like they're doing by blocking tax credits and lending assistance for small business owners," he said. "On issue after issue, we are trying to move America forward. And they keep on trying to take us back."