WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden’s push to end covert political spending by the super-rich died in the Senate on Thursday as Republicans voted unanimously against cutting so-called “dark money” in the election .
Democrats have spent years complaining that tycoons give away fortunes to influence politicians through loosely regulated and untraceable donations, raising the threat of corruption.
But the DISCLOSE law – a bill proposing to make donations to political organizations more transparent – managed to garner only 49 of the 60 votes needed to get it to the Senate, after a Republican blockade.
“Today, Senate Republicans stood with their megadonors and covert special interests to protect the most corrupt force in American politics – dark money,” said Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who spearheaded the proposed reform.
Political spending on black money has risen from less than US$5 million (Singaporean$7 million) in 2006 to more than US$1 billion in 2020, according to Whitehouse, who has vowed to keep fighting.
The bill would have required so-called “super PACs” — independent political action committees that are allowed to raise unlimited sums but cannot contribute directly to campaigns — and other black money groups to report anyone contributing $10,000 or more.
Biden had bet on the political capital of reform, delivering a televised speech from the White House on Tuesday in which he said the issue was a matter of “public trust.”
“Black money is eroding public trust. We need to protect public trust and I’m determined to do that,” the 79-year-old Democrat said.
The president noted a recent $1.6 billion donation by a Chicago industrialist to the ultra-conservative Marble Freedom Trust, the largest single contribution to a nonprofit political organization ever disclosed, which has not been revealed only thanks to the American media.
“The DISCLOSE Act would shine a light on special interest spending to neutralize its toxic effect, giving Americans a chance to be heard,” Whitehouse added.
“Republicans heeded the wishes of black money donors today, but the fight to pass this bill is not over.”
The New York Times reported in January, however, that donors allied with the Democrats matched or possibly even surpassed Republicans in spending on black money in the 2020 election.
The daily said 15 of the most politically active Democratic-aligned nonprofits spent more than $1.5 billion in 2020 — compared to about $900 million spent by a comparable sample on the Republican side. AFP