WASHINGTON -- Fearing the growing influence of political attack ads, an Oregon senator is pushing for stronger laws on campaign donations.
Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Portland, is proposing legislation that would require sources of political spending and donations to be reported almost immediately to the public.
At present, donations in federal elections are reported quarterly. That means donations made in the final weeks of an election -- when spending is heaviest -- remain hidden until after votes are counted.
Wyden outlined his plan Thursday in an opinion piece in The Washington Post. He co-authored the article with Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator from Alaska.
'At minimum, the American people deserve to know before they cast their ballots who is behind massive spending, who is funding people and organizations, and what their agendas are," the pair wrote.
The senators propose that Congress introduce legislation combining the 'best elements" of laws in Oregon and Alaska.
While Oregon has strong rules on disclosing donations to candidates, Alaska has strong rules on disclosing spending by 'outside groups." Outside groups are those unassociated with a candidate's campaign but are running ads in support or opposition to them.
Neither senator is proposing changing limits on donations. At present, an individual or company can donate up to $2,500 during an election. Outside groups can spend unlimited amounts.
Larry Makinson, a former director of the Center for Responsive Politics, says he supports efforts to improve disclosure laws but he hasn't read the full proposal yet.
'Clearly the devil is in the details and the exact wording will be tested to the limits by every campaign finance lawyer in politics," he said.
He added that it was encouraging the senators are taking a bipartisan approach.
'I think it's going to take a bipartisan effort to get anything through this Congress," he said. 'That's going to be a huge block. Everybody looks at campaign finance as a potential fight with their adversary."