A group of U.S. Senators announced today that the Senate will soon take action on legislation to put an end to secret campaign spending. On Monday, July 16, the Senate will take up the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, which will address the flood of unlimited secret money in elections unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.
The DISCLOSE Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), has 28 cosponsors, including Whitehouse's colleagues on the Senate's Citizens United Task Force: Rules Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Al Franken (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Tom Udall (D-NM).
"The flood of secret money unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision threatens to drown out the voices of middle class families in our democracy," said Whitehouse. "The DISCLOSE Act will uphold every citizen's right to know where this secret money is coming from and whom it is going to, and will help protect the interests of middle class families from the special interests who already have too much power. It's time for Congress to act."
The DISCLOSE Act requires any organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report within 24 hours, identifying any donors who gave $10,000 or more. It will require political groups posing as social welfare organizations to disclose their donors and will prevent corporations and other wealthy interests from using shell corporations to funnel secret money to super PACs.
"New Hampshire voters take seriously their job as hosts to the first-in-the-nation Presidential primary, but it was harder than ever to sort fact from fiction this year," said Shaheen. "The airwaves were full of negative ads paid for by unregulated secret money. There's no accountability for what these ads say and no way to assess the credibility of their sponsors. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of secrecy. We need more transparency so voters can make informed decisions."
"This country was built on the simple, yet revolutionary idea that the people should be in charge," Merkley said. "The Citizens United decision flies in the face of that vision. In fact, it turns "We the People' into "We the Powerful'. The DISCLOSE Act is the first step to taking our democracy back. The American people deserve to know who is flooding our airwaves with negative ads. Basic disclosure will shine a light on the secret money that is polluting our elections and drowning out the voices of the people."
"In Colorado, over the last two years we've been inundated with attack ads more than just about any other state," Bennet said. "Many of them are funded by only a small number of people through vague or anonymous groups and voters don't have the opportunity to determine if they have an agenda, or a bone to pick with a candidate or on an issue. Disclosure would bring information to voters, and accountability that bolsters democracy in our elections."
"In order to maintain a strong democracy, we need to ensure that working families have a voice -- because in tough times like these, it matters who has a voice in our elections," said Sen. Franken. "When the Supreme Court upended 100 years of law with Citizens United, it yanked the microphone away from average Minnesotans and turned it over to millionaires and corporations. Now a single person writing a check for millions of dollars can drown out the voices of everyone else -- and they can do so in total secrecy. But the Supreme Court said we can shine a light on the shadowy interests behind these unprecedented contributions. That's exactly what the DISCLOSE Act would do and that's why it's so critical that we pass it."
"We believe that all of the unlimited cash allowed by the Citizens United decision must at least be disclosed," said Senator Schumer. "This legislation seeks to limit the damage of the Supreme Court decision that has given corporations and the very wealthy unprecedented sway over our elections, and represents one of the most serious threats to the future of our democracy."
The DISCLOSE Act is supported by a broad coalition of voting rights, civil rights, and good government groups including Democracy 21, Common Cause, People For the American Way, the League of Women Voters, Credo Action Network, and Greenpeace, as well as by nearly 180,000 "citizen cosponsors."