Today at about 5:30, the U.S. Senate is set to vote on Sheldon Whitehouse’s DISCLOSE bill, which would require SuperPACs and other outside organizations to stand behind the negative ads they sponsor. Whitehouse is expected to speak on the legislation at around midnight.
“We’re doing what we call the midnight vigil,” said Rhode Island’s junior senator, who between this bill and the Buffett Rule bill, has sponsored some of the most high-profile and progressive legislation in the nation during this congressional session. “I’ll be on the floor until about 1 a.m.”
In describing the bill in a conference call on Friday, he said, “This is more than just a battle for clean elections, it’s more than just a battle for an American democracy that we can all be proud of and that can continue to shine its light around the world as an exemplar.”
A pared down version of a 2010 bill, the legislation would require outside political groups to label advertisements in a way that would let the consumer know who is sponsoring the message. In March, before the bill was submitted, Whitehouse described it this way:
“In the same way at the end of my ads I have to say, ‘I’m Sheldon Whitehouse and I approve this message,’ they would have to have an actual disclaimer in the ads that says we’re Exxon Mobile and we approve this message or I’m a billionaire from Macau and I approve this message so that is clear from the actual advertisement itself who the sponsor is.”
Senators are expected to vote along party lines with Democrats supporting the bill and Republicans not. But, in an odd dodge even for Washington D.C., Republicans have taken to inventing reasons not to support it. They say they won’t support it until language is removed that gives exempts labor unions. The only reason Whitehouse said he won’t remove such language, he said, is that it doesn’t exist.
“There is not place in this bill where unions are treted any differently than anyone one else,” Whitehouse said. “If you want to show me a place where I can find it in this bill, where labor unions get special advantage, have at it. Show me some language. You can look at this bill on its face and you can see there is no special treatment for anyone.”
We’ll see tonight if Democrats have any luck convincing Republicans that the language doesn’t exist, or if they come up with new reasons not to support the bill. Proponents of the legislation will be tweeting about it tomorrow, and invite you to join in, using the hashtag: #DiscloseVote.