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Another, Futile, Try to Unmask Secret Donors

Posted by: Joshua Green on February 9, 2012

A guest post from Bloomberg’s money-and-politics reporter, Jonathan D. Salant:

President Obama isn’t the only one shaking up campaign finance. House Democrats today introduced a new version of legislation that would require groups spending money in campaigns to disclose their donors. The original version, introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, passed the House but was killed by a Senate Republican filibuster.

That allowed nonprofit groups — such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS — which reported spending $137 million to keep their donors hidden in the 2010 elections. Most of that money went to support Republicans, who took control of the House and reduced the Democratic majority in the Senate. Anticipating that even more money will be spent this fall, Democrats decided to act.

“The American people deserve a political system that is fair, transparent, and accountable,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat and a bill co-sponsor. “They have a right to know who is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to influence them.”

With Republicans controlling the House, this new legislation isn’t expected to go anywhere. And Senate Democrats, who fell one vote short of breaking the Republican filibuster in 2010, are fewer in number today and thus would have an even harder time overcoming opposition.

The proposal follows Obama’s decision earlier this week to reverse his position and encourage his supporters to contribute to Democratic-leaning “Super PACs” — which, although they can take in unlimited donations, must disclose their donors. The Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, also has a nonprofit arm that allows contributors to remain secret. — Jonathan D. Salant (@JDSalant)

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Led by Bloomberg Businessweek's Washington correspondent, "Joshua Green on Politics" is a blog devoted to national politics and public policy issues, from Congress to the 2012 Presidential campaign trail. A special focus will be the intersection of business and politics. Follow the author on Twitter (@JoshuaGreen). To book for television or radio appearances, call Patti Straus, 212-617-3279, or e-mail

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