This week, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright introduced the Openness in Political Expenditures Now (OPEN) Act, legislation that would require corporations and labor unions to disclose political expenditure details to shareholders or union members.
Introduced with the support of 20 U.S. Representatives, the legislation would also cap the amount spent by tax-exempt 501(c)(4)s, commonly known as "social welfare" groups, for political purposes.
"We have a responsibility to ensure that our campaigns and elections are transparent, fair, and free from anonymous influence. Given the recent events concerning the IRS' alleged political targeting practices, a clearer definition of acceptable levels of political spending by 501(c)(4)s is essential," said Cartwright. "This bill would also require that corporations and unions disclose their political spending in order to guarantee accountability to shareholders and members."
In January 2010, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, declared that the government may not prohibit political spending by corporations in candidate elections. However, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's court opinion stated that "the Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements."
"Representative Cartwright's bill would curb the rapidly-growing abuse of the tax code by de facto political committees posing as 501(c)(4) social welfare groups in order to hide the identities of those seeking to buy influence in Washington," said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. "Further, the bill would provide greater disclosure of corporate and union political spending, which the Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision assured us existed, but in fact does not. The American public is fed up with secret money in politics and Congress must address the matter before the next election. The OPEN Act and other laudable bills to address the growing problem need to be part of the discussion as Congress moves to address this festering sore on our democracy."
Original Co-Sponsors: Rep. Alan Grayson, Rep. Robert A. Brady, Rep. Chaka Fattah, Rep. Albio Sires, Rep. Bill Enyart, Rep. John Yarmuth, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Rep. Robert E. Andrews, Rep. James Clyburn, Rep. Juan Vargas, Rep. Keith Ellison, Rep. Peter DeFazio, Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. David Cicilline, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Rep. Paul D. Tonko, Rep. Gene Green, Rep. Linda Sanchez