Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on Wednesday introduced the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, legislation that would prevent political donors from hiding their monetary contributions.
“The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has subjected the American people to a flood of political ads funded by anonymous donors,” said Whitehouse. “The American people deserve to know who is really behind these ads. This legislation will require organizations involved in elections to tell the public where they are getting their money, and what they are spending it on – shining a badly needed light into the activities of these groups.”
The Citizens United ruling gave rise to super PACS, which can raise an unlimited amount of money to influence federal elections as long as they do not directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.
Super PACs have quickly outpaced old-fashioned PACs, which can only accept annual donations of $5,000 or less and give a maximum of $5,000 per election to candidates, allowing campaign spending by outside groups to skyrocket. Super PACs have also exploited a loophole that allows them to postpone the disclosure of their donors until after the elections they participate in.
The DISCLOSE Act of 2012 would require any organization that spends 10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours. It would also require the head of any organization that puts out a political ad on TV or radio to state that he or she approves the message, similar to what candidates must do now.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced companion legislation in February.
The DISCLOSE Act of 2010 was blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
“The transparency measure faces an uphill battle, as the Republican caucus marched in lockstep to kill a similar measure in the last congressional session,” Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist at Public Citizen, noted. “Until recently, many of these same senators supported transparency of money in politics.”
[Image via Transportation for America, Creative Commons licensed]