Trumka: DISCLOSE Act Would Be Better For Electoral System

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In the wake of a flood of independent expenditure ads attacking Democratic candidates around the country — and a series of recent stories suggesting that the Chamber of Commerce may be financing its political activities with foreign money — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka now says the country would be better off if the DISCLOSE Act had become law.

A partial reversal from his previous position, Trumka today admitted that the DISCLOSE Act — which the AFL opposed, and which failed in the Senate because of a GOP filibuster — would be an improvement over the status quo.

“That’d be good for the system, I think,” Trumka said at a breakfast meeting with reporters, in response to a question from TPM. “Because the system is awash — there’s more money in the system than there was oil in the Gulf, quite frankly. It’s from people that you don’t know. You eventually find out I guess, but it’s this mysterious money coming in and targeting at three, four, five times what either of the candidates are doing.”Trumka claimed that the AFL has never in principle opposed disclosure as an objective: “What we did was say if you’re going to do it, make sure it applies to everybody — that we were being totally disadvantaged while other people weren’t being disadvantaged.”

That’s certainly true. However, as recently as three weeks ago, the AFL came out against the DISCLOSE Act in the Senate, stating that “[W]e must reluctantly oppose [the DISCLOSE Act] because it would impose extraordinarily costly and impractical new record-keeping and reporting obligations on thousands of labor and other non-profit membership organizations with regard to routine inter-affiliate payments that bear little or no connection with public communications about federal elections.”

With campaign mode in full swing, and a spate of anonymously funded ads running in districts around the country, they may have softened that position.

“What’s heartbreaking is there’s an imbalance here,” said AFL-CIO political director Karen Ackerman. “So there’s not an equal playing field with the amount of money that corporate America has to protect their own interests, and protect their tax breaks, and protect their trade deals, and protect their profit-making…there are not comparable institutions or interests — moneyed-interests — on the side that represents working people.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM’s senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he’s led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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