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DISCLOSE Act of 2018 would increase transparency, guard against foreign interference by requiring disclosure of dark money spending

In the wake of new Supreme Court vacancy, DISCLOSE Act of 2018 a key step toward strengthening, defending national campaign finance system

Washington, D.C. – Last week, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined all of their Senate Democratic colleagues and 145 Democratic members of the House of Representatives in introducing legislation to shine a light on the unlimited, secret spending flooding American elections. The DISCLOSE Act of 2018 would require organizations that spend money on federal elections to reveal their donors and increase protection against foreign interference in our elections.

The introduction of the legislation comes as outside spending organizations gear up to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the 2018 midterm elections. The DISCLOSE Act will provide reassurance as an increasing number of Americans believe that there is undue interference within our elections. Experts also warn of troubling avenues for which foreign influence can use loopholes in U.S. campaign finance laws in elections.

According to a bipartisan poll commissioned by the George W. Bush Institute, more than three in four Americans think that “the laws enacted by our national government these days mostly reflect what powerful special interests and their lobbyists want.” The survey found that 55 percent of Americans see democracy as “weak” and 68 percent believe it is “getting weaker.”

The DISCLOSE Act is a key part of A Better Deal for Our Democracy—the Democratic plan to end the corruption in Washington that has paralyzed American politics and rigged the system against working people. Democrats are committed to advancing critical reforms to empower voters at the ballot box, bolster our nation’s ethics laws, and overhaul our broken campaign finance system. 

Election spending has exploded in the United States since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Citizens United and subsequent Supreme Court rulings permit super PACs and certain types of tax-exempt groups to donate unlimited sums to politicians during elections. Many of those groups are not required to disclose their donors, allowing wealthy corporations and individuals to spend unlimited, anonymous, or “dark” money without being tied to television attack ads and other electioneering activity the same groups carry out. Moreover, the recent announcement of Justice Kennedy’s retirement, which gives President Trump a second opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice, potentially opens the door for further erosion of our campaign finance system.

The DISCLOSE Act of 2018 takes a number of steps to ensure disclosure of dark money spending. Specifically, this legislation Includes:

  • Requirements for organizations spending money in elections, including super PAC and certain nonprofit groups, to disclose promptly donors who have given $10,000 or more during the election cycle.
  • Robust transfer provisions to prevent political operatives from using layers of shell corporations and front groups to hide donor identities.
  • A “stand by your ad” provision requiring corporations, unions, and other organizations to identify those behind political ads, including disclosing an organization’s top five funders at the end of the television ads.
  • Protection against foreign spending in American elections by prohibiting domestic corporations with significant foreign control, ownership, or direction from spending money in U.S. elections.
  • A provision to crack down shell corporations by requiring companies spending money in elections to disclose their true owners.

The full text of the legislation is available HERE.