Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked for a second time in two days legislation that would require super PACs to disclose donations and expenditures of $10,000 or more within 24 hours. The DISCLOSE Act, which U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) cosponsored, was a modest attempt at lessening the destructive impact the Citizens United decision is having on American elections.
"Transparency is critical for free and fair elections and for democracy to function," Senator Coons said during remarks on the floor on Monday night. "The people of this country -- the voters, the constituents, those whom we serve and those who hire and fire all who serve them in federal and state and local offices -- need to know who they represent, who is funding their campaigns, what goals they will pursue in office, and whether the ends serve their interests."
Senator Coons was one of more than two-dozen Democratic senators who lined up to speak on the floor about the DISCLOSE Act on Monday night.
"If the Citizens United case has tilted elections toward those with the money to buy them, the DISCLOSE Act is an opportunity to level the playing field a little bit," Senator Coons said. "Instead of with money, it arms voters with information."
The relative anonymity afforded super PACs has, Senator Coons argued, allowed powerful special interests, corporations, and wealthy individuals to ratchet-up the negativity of political campaigns.
"These super PACs are not raising hundreds of millions of dollars to run campaign ads that are updates on the latest sports scores, or are filled with YouTube videos of sneezing pandas or yawning kittens," Senator Coons said. "These super PACs are gearing up to run the most negative possible campaign ads--the sorts of ads that can change hearts and minds because they have no accountability, because they have no one's name at the bottom line, because they feel free and are free to make the nastiest and most unfounded personal attacks. These super PACs are designed to divide us, and they are doing a great job."
Senate Republicans successfully prevented consideration of the DISCLOSE Act on Monday, lining up against the measure in a failed 51-44 vote. A procedural maneuver allowed a second attempt at consideration on Tuesday, but the bill ultimately failed by a vote of 53-45.
Senator Coons is also a cosponsor of a joint resolution introduced by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) that would amend the Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case.