Three Pinocchios For The Edwards Attack Ads

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Glenn Kessler runs the Post’s fact-check outfit. I haven’t always agreed with it, but today he nails it.

But the new language to neutralize the NRA angered Edwards, an original co-sponsor of the bill, and she pulled her support. (She proposed an alternative that she said would treat all advocacy groups the same, but it did not progress far.) She was joined in opposition by 44 liberal organizations, including the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and 11 other anti-gun-violence groups.

“The NRA is an organization that opposes any sensible gun control legislation and attacks any elected official that supports sensible gun control legislation,” said Edwards spokesman Benjamin Gerdes. “They shouldn’t have an exemption that allows them to secretly buy off politicians.”

But other progressive groups, such as Common Cause, Public Citizen and People for the American Way, supported the compromise. Meanwhile, right-leaning groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, were furious with the NRA. In the end, Van Hollen’s bill passed the House by a vote of 219 to 206, with overwhelming support by Democrats, including 70 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus. (Democrats split 217-36, Republicans split 2-170.)

After the House vote, Obama hailed it as “a critical piece of legislation to control the flood of special interest money into our elections.” He acknowledged “the House bill is not perfect – I would have preferred that it include no exemptions.” But, he said, “it mandates unprecedented transparency in campaign spending.”

The Senate version of the bill had its own twisted path in 2010, but ultimately even Democrats who initially had been angered by the NRA exemption (such as Dianne Feinstein of California) voted for it. In fact, all 59 Democrats in the Senate supported the legislation, but sponsors could not overcome the 60-vote hurdle to avoid a GOP filibuster. (Senate Democrats even scrapped the Van Hollen language regarding labor unions in a vain effort to attract a single GOP vote, leading the AFL-CIO to pull its support.)

The 59-39 vote was described by The Washington Post as a “bitter defeat for Democratic leaders and President Obama” and a “major victory for Republicans and major business groups.”

So when Edwards says “we won,” she is actually aligning herself with Republicans who opposed the entire concept of the legislation, rather than the few allies in her own party who objected to the NRA carve-out. She certainly did not win on the merits of her case.

Indeed, since Democrats lost control of the House, repeated efforts to revive the DISCLOSE Act have gone nowhere.

To recap: Edwards got angry at an amendment to a bill, publicly attacked it, and when it ultimately failed for reasons utterly unrelated to her complaint, she now claims that she “won.” Years later, she also now claims that this is a reason for people to vote for her, because she’s pure and morally superior, as opposed to Chris Van Hollen, who actually tried to  get a bill passed to address dark money abuse. Oh, and while critiquing him in this fashion, she’s rely oning precisely the dark money that Van Hollen tried to regulate in 2010. Got it?

Kessler’s verdict:

The objections raised by Edwards did not block the bill. In fact, they were dismissed by virtually all of her colleagues. She oversells her role in the legislation’s failure—and mischaracterizes Van Hollen’s efforts to win passage of a law that had virtually nothing to do with gun violence. We understand that competitors like to draw contrasts, but her aim here is wildly off the mark.

Three Pinocchios.

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