The contours around the Van Hollen campaign finance bill are getting interesting. The bill would exempt organizations that have over 1 million members, have been around for at least 10 years, has operations in all 50 states and receives less than 15% of their contributions from corporations. That exempts only the NRA. The bill's backers also cite AARP and the Humane Society, but the AARP says it wouldn't qualify:
"We haven't been involved in this process at all," says Jim Dau, spokesman for the AARP. "We don't endorse candidates, make political contributions, or more relevant to the DISCLOSE Act, do any election-based advertising for or against any candidate or party."
While the Humane Society says it would not qualify for the exemption because of the way it is organized.
Yesterday, a coalition of 45 progressive organizations, from groups like Progress Now Colorado and Media Matters to USAction and the Brady Campaign, wrote a letter to Speaker Pelosi urging that the language exempting the National Rifle Association from the Van Hollen bill requiring disclosure be removed. On the other side, a coalition of over 200 business and trade association groups led by the Chamber of Commerce joined the progressive organizations in coming out against the bill. Meanwhile, today, the WaPo editorializes against the amendment but comes out in favor of the bill, saying, "For those who believe that disclosure is the best defense against corrupting the political process, this new reporting is crucial. Exempting the NRA is obnoxious, but the alternative is even worse.", while groups like Wertheimer's Democracy 21 and Common Cause are in favor. The White House, via Dan Pfeiffer, praises the bill.
There has always been transpartisan alliances in campaign finance- I recall groups like the AFL-CIO joined with the Chamber of Commerce in supporting Sen. McConnell's case against the McCain-Feingold legislation when it went to the Supreme Court. The same went for Citizens United, with Alliance Defense Fund filing amicus curiae briefs along side the ACLU. In this case, what will be interesting is whether a coalition of all these major groups of varying ideologies and issue priorities can unite to amend or remove a ridiculous provision against one single actor, the NRA. Frankly, I doubt it, but who knows. And, the amendment is ridiculous. Campaign finance was one of my favorite topics in college and when I first got down to DC. There's no serious reason for having a 10-year exemption over 8- or 9-year exemption, for example. It's literally a shakedown by the NRA of the House members who are in their pocket designed to favor a single actor. I don't know whether to be more depressed that the NRA has this much clout on the Hill or irritated that Van Hollen is going along with it.
You can read the letter from the progressive orgs here.
Update: Van Hollen and Rep. Castle editorialize in favor of the bill, without addressing the criticism.
Update 2 (1:24 PM EST): David Dayen has more off a conference call with Van Hollen and Wertheimer defending the bill. Meanwhile, the 1 million member threshold exemption has been lowered to 500,000 to appease critics. The House is expected to vote tomorrow. It's not yet clear if the votes are there in the Senate.