K Street Fleeing From DISCLOSE Act

The Supreme Court decision upholding its 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission on June 25, made it clear that corporations, labor unions and individuals can continue to pour unlimited sums of money into congressional and presidential elections this year. Less clear is whether — or when — there will be enough support to limit the effects of the high court’s ruling, backed by recent FEC decisions, that paved the way for Super PACs and further hiked the sums of money poured into political campaign advertising.

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, the coauthor of the major 2002 campaign finance law that was essentially turned on its head by the Citizens United ruling, was highly critical of the high court decision to upturn Montana ban on corporate political spending, calling it “uninformed, arrogant and naive.” And Democacy 21‘s Fred Wertheiner said, “Citizens and the nation are not going to accept the Supreme Court-imposed campaign finance system that allows our government to be auctioned off to billionaires, millionaires, corporate funders and other special interests.”

But so far McCain’s GOP colleagues have objected to bringing to the House or Senate floor a repeat of the 2010 discussion over legislation to force disclosure of corporate and union donors — at least in the midst of the current election season. And as of the first quarter of 2012, few businesses, corporate or labor union organizations appeared willing to reenter the fray.

Shortly after the Citizens United decision, the Democratic 111th Congress edged forward legislation dubbed the DISCLOSE Act, which would have imposed new reporting and disclosure requirements for groups that finance advertisements that expressly advocate for or against a federal candidate and electioneering communications — broadcast communications that feature a federal candidate but don’t expressly advocate for that candidate’s election or defeat. The House narrowly passed a version by Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris VanHollen, which had 114 cosponsors, only two of which were Republicans, and the only lobbying client reported was the Chamber of Commerce. The Senate failed to pass its companion measure, sponsored by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, that had only seven Democratic cosponsors but about 50 lobbying clients reported for the measure and more than a 100 lobbyists working to track it.

Far fewer lobbying clients were reported in the first quarter 2012 reports for a more recent and narrower version of the Disclose Act, introduced by Van Hollen in the House and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in the Senate. The bills, neither of which has any Republican sponsors, would require corporations, labor unions and advocacy groups to reveal donations over $10,000 for campaign-related activities.

Noticeably absent from the list of lobbyists during the first quarter is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has faced criticism recently for failing to disclose donors while funding ads against Democrats. After a federal court ruling earlier this year in a Van Hollen case — in which the court said FEC had overstepped its authority in 2007 when issuing rules allowing groups that produce “issue ads” to withhold names of those funding the ads –the chamber then chose to focus ads on specific candidates.

However, the Chamber of Commerce and several other business groups have been active on the issue, writing to senators last May and arguing that the legislation would violate the First Amendment and unfairly target corporations. The letter, according to the National Journal, also was signed by Airlines for America, the American Chemistry Council, American Petroleum Institute, Associated Builders & Contractors and the National Federation of Independent Business. Meanwhile, the Campaign Legal Center sent a letter saying the measure is necessary following the Citizens United decision.

None of those groups appeared in first quarter filing reports, but may appear in the next round due out next month. A look at the list of lobbyists on legislation last session and the first quarter of 2012 might give a clue about who to look for when second and third quarter lobbying reports are released — or on any legislation that could come up in the next session of Congress, as many speculate that the issue won’t be address by lawmakers until after this election plays out.

Organizations that Lobbied a Version of the DISCLOSE Act

Lobbying Client

111 S.3628 (2010 3Q)

111 S.3628 (2010 4Q)

112 HR.4010 (2012 1Q)

112 S.2219 (2012 1Q)

Chamber of Commerce

$29,250,000

$36,360,000

National Cable and Telecommunications Association

$5,860,000

$4,280,000

$4,280,000

National Association of Realtors

$4,500,000

$4,760,000

National Association of Broadcasters

$3,410,000

$3,720,000

National Association of Manufacturers

$4,750,000

$1,570,000

Clear Channel Communications

$1,140,000

CBS Corporation

$810,000

$850,000

$2,160,000

$2,160,000

Emd Serono Inc.

$610,000

$670,000

Edison International

$470,000

Novo Nordisk

$410,000

American Insurance Assn.

$330,000

$310,000

Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO

$222,959

$222,959

American Civil Liberties Union

$295,250

$210,055

$507,603

$507,603

National Roofing Contractors Association

$150,000

$150,000

National Ready Mixed Concrete Association

$140,000

$140,000

National Right to Life Committee

$122,838

$119,232

National Association of Broadcasters

$80,000

Retiresafe

$176,190

$76,368

National Rifle Association of America

$60,000

Traditional Values Coalition

$25,300

American Society of Association Executives

$24,000

Public Citizen

$20,000

$60,000

Retiresafe

$13,695

$13,310

Coalition For Tax Equity

$5,000

Pacific Science Center

<$5,000

Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP

$1,460,000

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

$810,000

Ameren Services

$700,000

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

$690,000

NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business)

$685,000

Organization For International Investment

$545,499

American Farm Bureau Fed

$490,000

Sodexo, Inc.

$260,000

AFL-CIO

$760,000

$920,000

$920,000

Chamber of Commerce of the USA

$100,000

Home School Legal Defense Assn

$85,000

National Rifle Association of America

$60,000

Siemens Corporation

$50,000

CBS Corporation

$50,000

National Association of Broadcasters

$50,000

$50,000

National Taxpayers Union

$42,156

League of Conservation Voters

$40,000

Associated Equipment Distributors

$40,000

Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

$30,000

Public Citizen

$30,000

$60,000

Traditional Values Coalition

$25,300

American Society of Association Executives

$24,000

Heritage Action For America

$22,000

Clear Channel Communications

$20,000

National Religious Broadcasters

$10,603

Coalition For Tax Equity

$5,000

Pacific Science Center

<$5,000

Common Cause

$50,000

$50,000

People For The American Way

$40,000

$40,000

Communications Workers of America

$175,000

Democracy 21

$20,000

$20,000

Sunlight Foundation

$20,000

Construction Industry Round Table

$59,000

National Education Association

$2,252,514

Brennan Center For Justice at New York University School of Law

$12,166

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