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The DISCLOSE Act is a a bill proposed by Senators Chuck Schumer (N-New York), Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) in 2010 as a direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case, which gave corporations the right to spend unlimited funds to influence elections. The Act passed the house in June, 2010 but failed to pass the Senate in September due to united Republican opposition.[1]

DISCLOSE is an acronym for the "Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections" Act.

The DISCLOSE Act require organizations involved in political campaigning to disclose the identity of the large donors, and to reveal their identities in any political ads they fund. It would also bar foreign corporations, government contractors and Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) recipients from making political expenditures.[2]

Current status

The Act was introduced in the House as HR 5175 by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and passed in June, 2010.[2]

The Act failed to pass the Senate in September, 2010 due to united Republican support. The final vote was 59 to 39, short of the 60 votes required. All Democrats voted to support the bill; two Republicans did not vote. [1]

President Barack Obama called the Senate outcome "a victory for special interests and U.S. corporations — including foreign-controlled ones — who are now allowed to spend unlimited money to fill our airwaves, mailboxes and phone lines right up until election day."[1]

In the wake of the flood of secret money in the 2010 midterm elections, newspaper editorial boards across the country have called for Congress to pass the Act, [3] but it is not expected to pass in the lame duck Congressional session thanks to continued Republican opposition. The results of the midterm elections have solidified GOP opposition, as funds from secretly-funded "outside interest groups" (spending that would be outlawed by the DISCLOSE Act) supported Republicans over Democrats by a ratio of nearly six to one. [4]

Tea Party candidate opposition

Despite their grassroots, populist image, newly-elected Tea Party-backed candidates have vowed to block any campaign finance reform. Zach Carter theorizes they oppose efforts to crack down on secret corporate spending because the Tea Party's appeal "is based on its populist, grassroots image. If anybody knew that secret right-wing millionaires were bankrolling the entire operation, the “movement” would lose its luster." [5]

United Republican Opposition, but the RNC Chair Says...

In a bizarre October 24 interview with MSNBC, Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele told MSNBC that he did not know whether anonymously-funded outside interest group spending was actually happening, and when pushed on transparency, he said "the transparency should be there. But the law is what the law is right now. And if people are that bothered by it, then the Congress needs to change it." [6]

According to People for the American Way President Michael B Keegan, "[t]he glaring problem with Steele's supposed embrace of transparent elections is that just a couple of months ago, people were "bothered by" hidden corporate spending in elections, the majority in Congress did draft a law to make that spending transparent...but Steele's party united to stop the law in its tracks just before the midterm elections." [7]

What the bill proposed to do

The DISCLOSE Act legislation proposes to address seven major points:

1. Enhance disclaimers in advertising (make CEOs and other leaders take responsibility for their ads). 2. Enhance financial disclosures
3. Prevent foreign Influence in elections.
4. Make shareholders and members aware of where corporate money is going.
5. Prevent government contractors from spending taxpayer money on political ads.
6. Provide the lowest unit rate for candidates and parties. (Prevent special interests from drowning out the voices of the people.
7. Tighten Coordination Rules (corporations would not be able to “sponsor” a candidate).[8]

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Michael A. Memoli,Disclose Act fails to advance in Senate September 24, 2010, Los Angeles Times, accessed October 26, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 HR 5175, Open Congress, accessed October 26, 2010.
  3. See, e.g. Editorial Boards From Across the Country Call on Senate to Pass the DISCLOSE Act, People for the American Way blog, Nov. 19, 2010.
  4. Donny Shaw, How Dead is the DISCLOSE Act?, OpenCongress.org (blog), Nov. 9, 2010.
  5. Zach Carter, Tea Party Vows to Block Campaign Finance Reform, Media Consortium, Nov. 4, 2010.
  6. Meet the Press Transcript for October 24, 2010, accessed October 27, 2010.
  7. Michael B Keegan The Corporate Money Denial Game, October 27, 2010 Huffington Post.
  8. Chuck Schumer, Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senate We Want the Disclose Act, Web site describing the DISCLOSE Act, accessed June 25, 2010

External articles