Amid speculation that Senate Democrats will bring up a campaign finance disclosure bill as early as June, the League of Women Voters has launched a $90,000 radio ad campaign calling on four GOP Senators to “tell us you support full disclosure.”
The ads target Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe because they are “key actors on this important issue,” said the group’s president, Elisabeth MacNamara, in a statement.
The lawmakers “said supportive things about disclosure” in the past, said Kelly Ceballos, the league’s communications director. But Ceballos said the ads, which will run through June 1, are not specifically aimed at convincing the Senators to support legislation known as the DISCLOSE Act.
“It is about this issue,” Ceballos said. “But we certainly support the legislation.”
Still, the letter comes on the heels of a May 16 letter signed by 38 pro-reform organizations, including the league, urging all Senators to vote for the DISCLOSE Act. Supporters have no hope of winning approval for the legislation, which would require politically active groups to more fully report who’s backing the ads they run, without at least some GOP support.
A broader version of the DISCLOSE Act won approval in the House in the previous Congress but fell just short in the Senate, where not a single Republican backed the bill.
This year’s version, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), is more narrowly tailored. Last week, the newspaper the Hill quoted erstwhile reform champion Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) saying that he had discussed the issue with Whitehouse and a couple of other Democrats.
Also last week, McCain teamed up with Whitehouse on an amicus brief to the Supreme Court that urged justices to uphold a Montana law that bans corporate political spending.
McCain, who authored the 2002 soft money ban with then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), dropped political money as a signature issue when he ran for president in 2008. But in recent months, McCain has publicly denounced the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling to deregulate corporate and union political spending.
McCain could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman said the Senator is “always interested in looking for ways to address the issues that Citizens United has unleashed.” It’s too early to say whether McCain would support the DISCLOSE Act, his spokesman added, noting that the Senator has “concerns” about Democratic proposals that might impose different rules on politically active corporations, unions and individuals.