WASHINGTON -- The House and the Senate have spoken: Newly popular but secretive groups should be forced to say who is paying for TV commercials and other political activity.
The House early Wednesday voted 385-39 to require disclosure of groups that organize under section 527 of the tax code, which allows nonprofit groups to run campaign-style commercials as long as they don't directly advocate the election or defeat of any candidates.
The Senate passed a similar measure earlier this month, and the two chambers now must work out the differences before sending a final bill to the White House.
The White House cheered the House action. ''The House delivered a rebuke to their leadership and said the public interest is more important than the special interests,'' said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart. ''We certainly hope that this is a precursor to more broader and more comprehensive campaign finance reform.''
In the Senate, Arizona Republican John McCain and his allies will push GOP leaders to adopt the House bill.
''I hope the Senate will now pass this bill and send it to President Clinton for immediate signature so we will know this election cycle who and what these organizations are,'' McCain said in a statement.
Proponents of the disclosure measure note that every day of delay allows groups to collect more secret cash. Even if a bill eventually does become law, groups will not have to disclose the names of anyone who donates money before the bill is signed.
The final legislation covers any 527 group that raises at least $25,000 a year. It requires those that do not already report to the Federal Election Commission to report to the Internal Revenue Service, which will make the reports public.
Section 527 is reserved for political groups, giving them certain tax advantages. It was created for political parties and political action committees, which report their spending to the FEC.
But a new brand of 527 is reporting to no one. As far as the FEC is concerned, these groups claim to be involved in issues, not politics.
Using a 527, a pair of Texas brothers ran $2.5 million in ads praising Texas Gov. George W. Bush and attacking McCain in the days before a crucial GOP primary election. Another 527, with ties to House Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, is assisting a variety of Republicans running for Congress.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.