13 GOP Senators Buck Lott on Campaign Cash

Article excerpt

An effort to shine a spotlight on stealth political organizations has gained sudden life in Congress.

In the House, centrist Republicans forced their leaders to hold a hearing yesterday and bring to the floor legislation forcing new campaign disclosure laws on the groups.

In the Senate, 13 Republicans have bucked Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, by joining Democrats and voting to force such organizations to reveal their donors.

The tax-exempt groups are authorized by Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code and are not required to disclose either their contributors or expenditures under either federal tax or election laws.

Opponents of the legislation hope to broaden its scope to target Democratic supporters, and if broadening makes it unconstitutional, so much the better. But proponents say public outrage and staunch bipartisan commitment to address the issue will prevent any tinkering.

"Democrats hoped to have a surgical strike" against one type of political organization, said Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. The legislation may still move forward, Mr. McConnell said, "provided that it can use broader approach" including organized labor, tax-exempt business groups and trial lawyers.

Mr. McConnell said he will stick to those requirements, even if doing so will render the bill of "dubious constitutionality."

Cleta Deatherage Mitchell, an attorney who represents conservative Section 527 groups, called the proposal "a classic example of legislation by headline."

Speaking at the House hearing yesterday, Mrs. …