Watchdog Groups Begrudgingly Back DISCLOSE Act

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 10:07 AM EDT

The carve-out that the National Rifle Association managed to secure in the House’s campaign finance reform bill has left many liberals gnashing their teeth. A slew of liberal groups have threatened to pull their support for the DISCLOSE Act—meant to curb the excesses of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision—if the NRA’s exemption stays in. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has even suggested the NRA deal may be unconstitutional in a statement released Wednesday.

But not all Democratic allies have followed suit. Labor unions are currently lobbying to push through their own deal in exchange for supporting the bill, which would require independent groups to out the donors that back campaign ads. Five watchdog groups—Common Cause, Public Citizen, the Campaign Legal Center, the League of Women Voters, and Democracy 21—have urged lawmakers to vote for the bill, though some have made no secret of their distaste for the NRA deal. "We're uncomfortable with giving anyone any exemption. It continues to be a hard decision," Craig Holman of Public Citizen told McClatchy.

Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) announced its own support for the bill after mistakenly being included as a signatory on a letter to Nancy Pelosi signed by a host of liberal groups that opposed it. The group's followed up with its own letter to Pelosi, noting the error and hailing the importance of political compromise: "We are not interested in seeing the perfect be the enemy of the good and are well aware that the NRA’s opposition to the bill might be sufficient to doom its chance of passage."

Given the nearly unanimous opposition from the right on the bill, the Democrats will need all the friends they can get if the bill stands a chance. And it will be interesting to see if President Obama himself ends up making a strong case for the legislation. Only a few weeks ago, Obama was publicly railing against Citizens United and arguing for the need for campaign finance reform. But that was before BP's big oily mess had engulfed his presidency.

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