DISCLOSE Act, Born to Die

The only new or interesting thing about yesterday’s DISCLOSE Act vote was dug up beforehand by Dan Froomkin.

On 2000, Senate Republicans joined Democrats in overwhelmingly passing a bill92 to 6, that required a growing number of secretive tax-exempt groups to reveal their donors and spending… Of today’s Republican senators, 14 were there in 2000 and voted in favor of disclosure.

Yes, let’s not forget that total disclosure, with few or no limits, used to be the automatic Republican position on campaign finance reform. One of the 14 flippers yesterday was Sen. John McCain, whose road-back-from-Damascus story says it all. There’s a massive oversupply of McCain quotes from the late 1990s to last month denouncing the campaign finance regime. “I think there will be scandals associated with the worst decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century,” McCain said in June on Meet the Press. “Uninformed, arrogant, naive.”

Why wouldn’t McCain break ranks yesterday? Because nobody’s going to make a sudden move and hand the other party a victory this close to an election. If I sound cynical, it’s because the Democrats held a DISCLOSE vote before they even tried to hold a vote on the president’s preferred version of tax cut extensions (keeping every current rate except the ones hitting the $250,000 and above brackets). McCain had previously talked about disclosure in a “pox on both houses” kind of way – we’ve got billionaires, they’ve got unions – but we’re in a fairly new climate where “disclosure” means “shaming mega-rich donors.” That’s something correctly seen as a populist Democratic attack on the GOP. So the bipartisan space you used to have for CFR has eroded, and even John McCain won’t stand in it.