With Republicans firmly opposed, the measure has little chance of passing Congress in time to force new transparency on the 2012 campaign cycle. Still, Democrats aim to use the vote to paint Republicans as standing for special interests, while Republicans say such disclosure is little more than an attempt to identify, intimidate, or even punish political enemies.
In the 2012 election cycle, individual contributions to candidates are capped at $2,500 and may not come from corporate or union treasuries. Contributions to candidates that come from traditional political action committees cannot exceed a $5,000 annual limit. But the Citizens United ruling spawned the creation of "super PACs", which can accept unlimited donations from any source to influence elections, so long as they do not coordinate spending with campaigns. In principle, super PACs must disclose donors, but in practice that has meant disclosing the names of politically active nonprofit groups, which are not required to disclose donors.
Since Citizens United, Democrats have sought to force disclosure of donors, including those giving to politically active nonprofit groups. Super PACs and nonprofits spent $204 million to influence the 2010 campaign cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission. The DISCLOSE Act is a diluted version of a 2010 bill that pinned the disclosure threshold at $600 and fell one vote short of overcoming a GOP filibuster in the Senate.