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Top Dem Leaves DISCLOSE Act Vigil

After Senate Republicans blocked the DISCLOSE Act from a vote yesterday, Senate Democrats held a “midnight vigil” to support the donor disclosure legislation. The lead sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, felt so strongly about fundraising transparency that he stayed at the debate all night long.

Kidding! He actually slipped out for awhile to attend a nearby fundraiser for a health care reform group. BuzzFeed reports:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the lead sponsor on the DISCLOSE Act – which would force outside political organizations to disclose donations of more than $10,000 – briefly left a “midnight vigil” on the Senate floor to attend a fundraiser for a health care reform group.

Whitehouse and Sen. Chuck Schumer had set up a series of votes and debates on their DISCLOSE Act — all of which were not expected to help the bill’s chances of passage in the near term — in an effort to hammer Republicans over their opposition to further transparency in campaign finance laws.

Whitehouse didn’t go far – the event was held at Johnny’s Half Shell, a tony bar located less than a quarter mile from the Senate chamber that is a popular venue for fundraisers by politicians, lobbyists, political groups, and non-profits like the Alliance, an educational group that does not take positions on legislation, including ObamaCare, and which backs “affordable, quality health care and long-term care for all Americans.”

“Apparently the only thing more important for Sheldon Whitehouse than his all-night debate on the evils of money in politics was a fundraiser,” a Senate Republican aide emails.

The health care reform group that held the fundraiser is a nonprofit, so it wouldn’t be targeted by the DISCLOSE Act legislation anyway. The bill mainly targets super PACs, which, not coincidentally, have been used effectively by conservatives in recent elections. Still, Whitehouse could have at least waited until the day after his midnight vigil against political spending to attend any Washington fundraisers — if only to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy.

Once again, it appears the DISCLOSE Act is about restricting First Amendment rights and undermining conservative groups rather than expanding “transparency.”