Campaign 'Disclose' Act Passes House, With Loopholes

Republicans vow opposition to campaign measure in Senate.

ByABC News
June 24, 2010, 4:32 PM

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2010— -- Four months before the midterm elections, House Democrats today approved new limits on corporations and interest groups in political campaigns, while exempting some of the most powerful organizations from the new rules.

The so-called Disclose Act requires the heads of companies, unions and nonprofit groups to appear personally in any sponsored political ads and endorse the message. It would also require them to reveal the names of the top five donors who helped foot the advertising bill.

Foreign companies and those that hold lucrative U.S. government contracts or that have benefitted from federal bailouts would be banned from engaging in any independent political activity.

But the new guidelines -- which Democrats have sought in response to a Supreme Court decision removing limits on political spending by corporations -- do not apply to some interest groups such as the NRA and AARP, among others.

Critics have decried the double standard as a "backroom deal" that violates a select group of individuals' rights to freedom of speech and gives favorable treatment to others. Supporters of the measure say the exemptions were essential to get the bill passed and avoid a fight with the powerful gun lobby.

President Obama today said the Act will "control the flood of special interest money into our elections" and "give the American public the right to see exactly who is spending money in an attempt to influence campaigns for public office."

"I would have preferred that it include no exemptions," he said, acknowledging controversy over the bill. "But it mandates unprecedented transparency in campaign spending, and it ensures that corporations who spend money on American elections are accountable first and foremost to the American people."

Any group in existence for more than 10 years, having at least 500,000 dues-paying members from across the 50 states, and not receiving more than 15 percent of their funds from corporations does not have to follow the new restrictions.