Government reform advocates are setting their sights this week on Maine’s two moderate Republican Senators, who may be the last hope this Congress for a campaign finance bill.
Reformers are heavily courting Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both co-sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, to get behind the DISCLOSE Act before the August recess.
Passed by the House on June 24, the bill would temper a recent Supreme Court decision that lifted spending bans on corporations, unions and nonprofit organizations by bulking up reporting requirements for their political outlays.
“Sen. Snowe and Sen. Collins have been leaders in the past on government integrity legislation, and we are urging them to figure out a way to work with Democratic sponsors of this bill to resolve whatever questions or problems they may have,” Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, told reporters Monday.
Along with four other watchdog groups, Democracy 21 has launched a lobbying campaign targeting the two Maine Senators. The informal coalition includes the League of Women Voters of Maine, Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG and the Campaign Legal Center.
As of press time, a Collins spokesman was unavailable for comment, but a Snowe aide wrote in an e-mail Monday that there are more pressing issues at hand.
“Senator Snowe is still reviewing the bill, but feels that we should be focusing on passing a small business jobs bill before we move to anything else,” Julia Wanzco Lawless said.
The groups also have started a grass-roots campaign in the Pine Tree State. Public Citizen lobbyist Craig Holman said that more than 100 of his organization’s members already have contacted Snowe’s and Collins’ offices, and U.S. PIRG is rallying its members. Ann Luther, the former president of the League of Women Voters of Maine, said Monday that “Maine voters value this type of disclosure.”
“They want to know where the money is coming from,” Luther said. “We believe that our Senators have a long history of standing for this type of government integrity. We believe they will get behind this legislation in the end.”
The Maine lawmakers are the latest Republican targets of the campaign finance community. Earlier this year, the DISCLOSE Act’s authors heavily lobbied Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown to be the much-needed Republican co-sponsor of the Senate version, but to no avail.
In the House, DISCLOSE Act sponsor Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, successfully enlisted Republican Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) and Mike Castle (Del.) to support his chamber’s bill.
Meanwhile, the bill’s primary Senate sponsor, Charles Schumer (D), has not brought on board even one GOP sponsor. And Senate Democrats are hesitant, with Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) both recently voicing concerns about the DISCLOSE Act.
Campaign finance groups on Monday said they still hoped that Brown would support the bill. The groups wrote to Brown on Friday, acknowledging that “the legislation as passed by the House is not perfect.”
“We renew our request that you work with Senate supporters of the DISCLOSE Act to resolve the differences you have with the legislation and that you support the passage of the Act,” the groups stated. “This is an approach which you have appropriately taken as a Senator with a number of other bills, consistent with your stated position of wanting to bring an independent voice to Washington.”
On Monday, Holman told reporters that Public Citizen is still encouraging Brown to back the bill. “We’re not giving up on him yet,” he said.