AFL-CIO Officially Opposing Senate's DISCLOSE Act

One of the country's largest and most powerful union groups is formally opposing new campaign finance laws being pushed in the Senate, calling the bill noble in spirit but "onerous" and overbearing in its requirements.

In a statement released just hours before the Senate is set to vote on the DISCLOSE ACT, the union federation AFL-CIO offered its official opposition to the bill:

The AFL-CIO supports reasonable disclosure and disclaimer requirements related to political and advocacy activities. We have long argued that there is too much special interest money in politics and that much of it remains hidden behind a smokescreen of third-party organizations established for the purpose of obscuring the real source of funding.

However, the Senate bill imposes extraordinary new, costly, and impractical record-keeping and reporting obligations on thousands of labor (and other non-profit) organizations with regard to routine inter-affiliate payments that bear little or not connection with public communications about federal elections.

The statement, signed by Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO's director of government affairs, adds another potential hurdle to Senate passage. Already leadership is trying to round up a single Republican member to break a filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act. To court a GOP lawmaker, they added to the legislative language the type of disclosure requirements for unions that the AFL-CIO cites as the basis of its opposition.

This could, in the end, help win over a Senate Republican -- though at this juncture there is only one left: Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). But the bill has to inevitably go back to the House of Representatives for a second vote. And it is there that the AFL-CIO could have the biggest impact, lobbying more forgiving members to either strip away the objectionable parts or torpedo the legislation altogether.

In his letter, Samuel addresses the additions the Senate made to its version of the legislation, calling them unnecessary to the goal of campaign-related disclosure.

Opponents of the House passed bill claim that the bill includes a special carve out for labor unions. This is not accurate as the House bill avoids needless disclosure of member dues and routine inter-affiliate payments within all membership organizations, not just unions. By ensuring that those ordinary transactions are not subjected to onerous and inappropriate campaign finance reporting requirements and penalties, the House bill recognizes that requiring hundreds - if not thousands - of reports, all from different levels of the same organization, add nothing to the public's understanding of who is behind the campaign or issue ads they see on television.