Washington (CNN) - Senate Republicans narrowly blocked Democratic campaign finance disclosure legislation in the Senate Tuesday after raising concerns the bill would curb freedom of speech and tilt campaign spending in favor of the Democrats.
A 57-41 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed for the Senate to cut off debate on the measure. Republicans unanimously opposed the measure while Democrats solidly backed it.
Democrats said the legislation - known as the DISCLOSE Act - would bring greater transparency to campaign contributions from corporations, labor unions, and other special interests, which were able to ramp up political spending in the wake of the Supreme Court's controversial ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission earlier this year.
The bill would require organizations paying for political advertising to disclose the names of their top donors in the ads, similar to what now is required of political candidates for federal office.
Republicans accused Democrats of trying to preserve their majorities in the House and Senate by skewing the rules in the favor of labor unions, trial lawyers, and other Democratic-leaning groups. Democrats denied that was their motive, and made certain changes to the bill last week aimed at satisfying GOP critics.
The Republicans were not mollified.
Updated: 5:06 p.m.
Washington (CNN) - The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote Tuesday on whether to end debate on a campaign finance bill, and Democrats fear a unified Republican filibuster will prevent the measure from moving to a final vote.
A key Republican, moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, opposes the bill because it puts less restrictions on labor unions - a key Democratic constituency - than on corporations and other large donors, an aide to Collins said Monday.
"The bill would provide a clear and unfair advantage to unions, while either shutting other organizations out of the election process or subjecting them to onerous reporting requirements that would not apply to unions," said the Collins aide, Kevin Kelley.
Collins is one of the few Republican senators considered a possible vote in support of Democratic-backed proposals. With Republicans holding enough Senate seats to block legislation, the inability of Democrats to attract support from Collins shows the precarious status of the bill.
Washington (CNN) - Congressional lawmakers are staring at the chance, as some groups believe, to free themselves from the mad dash for campaign cash and to elevate the voices of everyday Americans over special interests. Yet others believe that a congressional bill involves something so despised by Americans that, if enacted, lawmakers would be committing an act of political suicide.
On Thursday, the Public Campaign and Common Cause, two non-profits focused on campaign finance reform, are leading the launch a $15 million campaign for passage of the Fair Elections Now Act. In March of last year, the legislation was introduced by the Senate's second most powerful Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, five-term Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, the fourth ranking Democrat in that chamber.
Yet even with such high-power backing, the legislation has not advanced far in Congress. The Public Campaign's new $15 million push hopes to change that. It will feature a television ad released Thursday, that will run in key areas. The groups are also working with organizations in 24 states to pressure on key lawmakers. The goal: a successful vote in the next few weeks on the Fair Elections Now Act.
The legislation would allow qualified candidates for federal office to receive large sums of money in the form of grants and matching funds. Supporters argue it would allow candidates to be competitive in campaigns that have increasingly grown more expensive and caused candidates to spend countless hours going after campaign funds.
Washington (CNN) - The Supreme Court has affirmed a congressional ban on "soft money"– the unlimited contributions to political parties for so-called "party-building" activities.
The justices in a brief order rejected an appeal from the Republican Party, urging the court to quickly step in and decide whether the soft money ban was unconstitutional. This after the Supreme Court in January eased long-standing restrictions on "independent spending" by corporations and unions in political campaigns.
The conservative majority ruling gave big business, unions and non-profits more power to spend freely in federal elections, threatening a century of government efforts to regulate the power of corporations to bankroll American politics.
Washington (CNN) - The Supreme Court has blocked for now a state election law that gives "matching funds" to help underfunded candidates in Arizona.
The justices, in a brief order Tuesday, temporarily told state officials not to distribute money under the Clean Elections law, which provides extra, taxpayer-funded support for office seekers who have been outspent by privately funded opponents or by independent political groups.
A federal appeals court in April approved parts of the sweeping campaign reform law. A group of mostly conservative groups –including several current and former Republican state legislators - filed the emergency appeal with the high court, saying their free speech rights were being hurt, and their private fundraising efforts would be stifled because of public election financing. They have succeeded in their efforts for now, while state campaigning is under way in an election year.
The Supreme Court's order allows a more thorough, detailed appeal to be filed in coming weeks by supporters of the law. There was no indication when the plaintiffs would seek to file such an petition.
The case is McComish v. Bennett (09A1163).
Washington (CNN) – Congressional Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday that would ban foreign-controlled companies and most firms receiving either government contracts or federal bailout funds from spending money on U.S. elections.
The bill also would require the head of any corporation running a political ad to appear in the commercial to say that he or she "approves this message" - just as candidates themselves must do today.
The measure is designed to mitigate the impact of a controversial Supreme Court campaign finance ruling from earlier this year that overturned a long-standing ban on corporations and unions using their treasury funds to run presidential and congressional election ads.
The 5-4 decision - a victory for the high court's conservative majority - also rejected a prohibition on companies and unions running campaign ads 30 days before a primary election or 60 days prior to a general election.
Democrats have slammed the decision as a win for traditionally Republican-leaning corporate interests.
Washington (CNN) – A federal ban on "soft money" campaign donations to political parties can remain in place, a special federal court panel ruled Friday.
The decision preserves a key provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform act, which limits contributions to national, state, and local political parties. The case is likely to reach the Supreme Court in coming months.
In a separate and equally important court ruling, the federal government is still prevented from limiting donations to independent political groups.
These are the first two court rulings on campaign spending since a landmark Supreme Court decision on corporate campaign spending in January.