Hoping to reignite momentum behind besieged campaign finance reform, the White House on Monday offered another endorsement of legislation authored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
In a statement of administration policy released on Monday afternoon, the White House called the bill less than "perfect," owing to a disclosure exemption that was added for the National Rifle Association. (That exemption was subsequently expanded to include other groups shortly after the uproar over the gun lobby's preferred status). Nevertheless, the administration insisted that the bill would provide "unprecedented transparency" and was greatly needed to add order and disclosure to the campaign finance system.
The Administration strongly supports House passage of H.R. 5175. The Administration believes the DISCLOSE Act is a necessary measure so that Americans will know who is trying to influence the Nation's elections. H.R. 5175 also prevents those who should not interfere in the Nation's elections - like corporations controlled by foreign interests - from doing so. Unless strong new disclosure rules are established, the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case will give corporations even greater power to influence elections. This bill is not perfect. The Administration would have preferred no exemptions. But by providing for unprecedented transparency, this bill takes great strides to hold corporations who participate in the Nation's elections accountable to the American people. As this is a matter of urgent importance, the Administration urges prompt passage of the DISCLOSE Act.
The statement comes roughly a week after White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote a blog post also touting the need to pass the DISCLOSE Act. The administration had not addressed some of the specific criticisms over the NRA exemption. But the line they are taking seems to reflect that offered by Van Hollen himself, who has said in several interviews with the Huffington Post that adding the carve-out was essentially necessary to give the legislation a chance for passing the House.
The bill itself still faces an uphill climb, as House Democratic leadership was forced to pull its consideration after a majority of votes failed to materialize. The White House statement helps push back against some of the philosophical critiques. But Van Hollen's office, undoubtedly, would welcome some help whipping votes from the administration as well.