Tester, Baucus support disclosure bill

Helena Independent Record

by Mike Dennison

Montana’s two Democratic U.S. senators Tuesday voted for a measure to force groups spending millions on campaign ads to disclose their top donors and spending – but the bill was blocked by Senate Republicans.

The bill, known as the Disclose Act, needed 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster, but had only 51 votes in support.

Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus joined 49 other Democrats in support of the measure. None of the chamber’s 47 Republicans voted for the bill.

“Elections belong to the people, and the people have a right to know where all this money is coming from,” Baucus said.

Even if the bill had passed the Senate, it was likely doomed in the House, where majority Republicans have stated their opposition.

GOP leaders in the Senate accused Democrats of wasting time on a bill they knew wouldn’t pass.

The act would require any group spending $10,000 or more on campaign-related ads to file a report within 24 hours of the expense, identifying what they spent and any donors who gave the group $10,000 or more. However, it wouldn’t take effect until next year.

Current law requires political-action committees to make periodic reports on their spending and donors to the Federal Election Commission, but nonprofit groups generally don’t have to reveal either.

Such groups are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the current election, including Montana’s high-profile U.S. Senate contest between Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont.

Tester voted Tuesday to break the filibuster and gave a speech on the Senate floor Monday in favor of the bill.

“The secretive special interests are taking full advantage of (our) uneven playing field,” he said. “They’re buying up millions of dollars of time on the airwaves, blanketing Montana with lies and distortions in order to influence voters.”

Baucus and Tester also are supporting an amendment to the Constitution that would limit corporate campaign expenditures in elections, undoing the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said corporations can spend directly on campaign ads.

Baucus is sponsoring the amendment, which is up for a hearing next Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A constitutional amendment requires approval by two-thirds of each house of Congress and three-fourths of state legislatures.