Amid growing concern over the growing influence of super PACs, congressional Democrats are set to introduce new legislation designed to bring an increased level of transparency to campaign-related expenditures. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) will introduce in the coming weeks an updated version of the DISCLOSE Act, the legislation aimed at increasing transparency in election spending that failed to pass Congress, in September 2010, by a single Senate vote. Senate Democrats will introduce their own version of the legislation after the House moves first. The two bills are likely to differ slightly in language, though those differences aren’t immediately known. “There is still work being done on a bill in the Senate,” said one Senate Democratic aide. “It will be high on our priority list,” added another.
The bill has been redesigned to account for the rise of super PACs and to make more transparent what is widely regarded as a dangerous proliferation of largely anonymous spending during the 2012 election cycle. According to ProPublica, super PACs have so far spent nearly $20 million on campaign activities in the first four presidential primary states alone. That total does not take into account the money spent that super PACs neglected to report.
“As you know, I think the outside super PACs and others is so disgraceful that I’m ashamed of the United States Supreme Court in their decision on United,” Sen. John McCain said Wednesday, in reference to the 2010 Citizens United decision that opened the door to unlimited spending by corporations in elections.
The new DISCLOSE Act, like the original version, would not attempt to challenge legal rulings and put actual curbs on such spending. But it would require timely disclosure by super PACs and 501(c)(4) organizations that spend money on campaign advertisements. It would require lobbyists to disclose their campaign expenditures to these groups. It would force corporations to disclose campaign expenditures to their shareholders. It would force super PACs to reveal their top five donors in each ad. And it would require that the heads of these groups literally “approve” an ad’s message at the end of each one.