The Montana legislature passed sweeping campaign finance legislation on Wednesday that will require the disclosure of all donors to any independent group spending money on state-level elections. The bipartisan Montana Disclose Act will effectively end the flood of “dark money” — electoral spending by nonprofit groups that do not disclose their donors — that has plagued recent Montana elections. “Montana elections are about to become the most transparent in the nation, requiring those trying to influence our elections to come out of the dark money shadows,” Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who plans to sign the bill, said in a statement. “Our elections should be decided by Montanans, not shadowy dark money groups.”Full Article: Montana Republicans And Democrats Unite To Ban Dark Money.
The cries for changing the Federal Election Commission from some editorial boards and campaign finance lobbyists overlook the obvious dangers of an unchecked federal agency regulating the political involvement of citizens. When Congress created the FEC, it did not design an agency that could be wielded as a partisan weapon; instead, the agency is required to be equally divided, with, at most, three of its six members from the same party. Thus, the FEC is designed to ensure fair and impartial regulation and administration of campaign finance laws — not partisan or ideological witch hunts.Full Article: Opinion: Hard truths of campaign finance - Donald F. McGahn and Caroline Hunter and Matthew Petersen - POLITICO.com.
National: Wyden and Murkowski have a bill to fight super PACs. Does it go far enough? | Washington Post
As Ezra noted in his profile of Oregon’s senior Senator, Ron Wyden’s staff have a funny-cos-it’s-true joke about their boss. “You got a problem?” they say to one another. “Ron Wyden has a comprehensive, bipartisan solution to fix it.” Well, independent campaign spending by super-PACs is, arguably, a problem. And Wyden now has a comprehensive, bipartisan solution to fix it. It’s called the Follow the Money Act of 2013, and with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) signed on as a co-sponsor, it’s the first bipartisan piece of Senate legislation to address the growth of super-PACs in the 2010 and 2012 elections.Full Article: Wyden and Murkowski have a bill to fight super PACs. Does it go far enough?.
National: Senators Ron Wyden, Lisa Murkowski Unveil Bipartisan Campaign Finance Bill | Huffington Post
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) unveiled on Tuesday the first bipartisan campaign disclosure bill in the Senate since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling opened the door to unlimited electoral spending by groups that were not covered by any prior campaign disclosure regime. The bill, known as the Follow the Money Act, would require any and all groups spending at least $10,000 on electoral activity to register and disclose contributions above $1,000. The bill would also raise the threshold for contributor disclosure from $200 to $1,000 for all political committees, including those of candidates and political parties.Full Article: Ron Wyden, Lisa Murkowski Unveil Bipartisan Campaign Finance Bill.
The Democrat-authored campaign finance transparency bill known as the DISCLOSE Act failed to win approval in either the 111th or the 112th Congresses, but its backers have set out to try again in this session. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., reintroduced the legislation on Thursday, calling the bill “a first step to clean up the secret money in politics.” The bill is unchanged from last year’s version; it would require all corporations, unions and super PACs to report campaign expenditures of $10,000 or more. The bill also covers financial transfers to groups that use the money for election-related activity. At the outset of the 113th Congress, the legislation’s prospects appear no better than they were previously.Full Article: DISCLOSE Advocates Renew Fight | At the Races.
National: Senate Republicans block Democratic bill to require disclosure of large political donors | The Washington Post
Senate Republicans blocked Democratic-backed legislation requiring organizations pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign ads to disclose their top donors and the amounts they spend. GOP opposition prevented Democrats from getting the 60 votes needed to bring what is known as the Disclose Act to the Senate floor. The vote was 51-44. Democrats revived the act during a presidential election campaign in which political action committees and nonprofit organizations, funded by deep-pocketed and largely anonymous contributors, are dominating the airwaves with largely negative political ads. Another version of the Disclose Act passed the then-Democratic-controlled House in 2010 but was similarly blocked by Republicans in the Senate. Republicans cite First Amendment rights and say the bill favors unions in opposing the legislation.Full Article: Senate Republicans block Democratic bill to require disclosure of large political donors - The Washington Post.
Two years ago, Congress came within a single Republican vote in the Senate of following the Supreme Court’s advice to require broad disclosure of campaign finance donors. The justices wanted voters to be able to decide for themselves “whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.” The court advised such disclosure in its otherwise disastrous Citizens United decision in 2010, which loosed a new wave of unlimited spending on political campaigns. The decision’s anticorruption prescription has grown even more compelling as hundreds of millions of dollars in disguise have flooded the 2012 campaigns — a great deal of it washed through organizations that are set up for the particular purpose of hiding the names of the writers of enormous checks. The ability to follow the money has never been this important since the bagman days of the Watergate scandal. But when the Democratic Senate majority made a fresh attempt to enact a disclosure bill on Monday, the measure was immediately filibustered to death by Republicans, like other versions.Full Article: The Power of Anonymity - NYTimes.com.
National: As DISCLOSE Act stalls, Super PAC reserves $6 million in ad time for House races | The Washington Post
One Republican group has reserved $6 million in television advertising time for the fall election season to help more than a dozen House GOP candidates, and about half the money will come from the nonprofit side of the organization that is not required to disclose its donors. The Congressional Leadership Fund and its nonprofit affiliate, the American Action Network, reserved the ad time in seven key media markets — which will also be likely battlegrounds for the presidential race — as a down payment for what is expected to be a much larger fall campaign to promote House Republicans. The move comes as congressional Democrats step up their criticism of nonprofit groups that shield their donors and that are playing an increasingly prominent role in House and Senate races. On Monday evening, Senate Republicans blocked consideration of a Democratic bill that would require those nonprofits to disclose the donors of every contribution of at least $10,000 that is used for political purposes. The DISCLOSE Act, as the proposal is known, failed on a vote of 51 to 44, falling short of the 60 votes needed to proceed to a full debate.Full Article: As DISCLOSE Act stalls, Super PAC reserves $6 million in ad time for House races - The Washington Post.
Democrats launched another push for campaign finance transparency on Thursday, aiming to combat the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling as Republicans outraise them on the campaign trail. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dedicated the bulk of her weekly press conference to the DISCLOSE Act — which would increase disclosure requirements for campaign contributions — and Senate Democrats held a press conference Thursday afternoon to plug the bill, which will go before the Senate next week. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who joined Pelosi at the conference, said Democrats have filed a discharge petition for the bill in the House. “This is a House of Representatives that is pretending that it is one of the most open House of Representatives in recent times, and yet they have refused to even hold a hearing on the DISCLOSE Act,” Van Hollen said. Indeed, Democrats have been banging this drum for months to no avail, and there’s nothing to indicate their latest attempt will yield a different result.Full Article: Democrats push for campaign finance disclosure, again - POLITICO.com.
The Supreme Court is expected Thursday to decide on a Montana case that could undercut or reaffirm the court’s controversial 2010 campaign finance decision — and don’t think Senate Democrats aren’t paying attention. Just four and a half months shy of national elections and against the backdrop of super PAC dominance, Democrats still see campaign finance as a winning issue, though admittedly not as important as jobs or the economy. The Supreme Court is considering American Tradition Partnership Inc. v. Bullock, a case in which the Montana high court ruled that the national Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling did not require the state to loosen its own campaign finance restrictions. And while a stay has been issued on that decision, most observers believe the Supreme Court will uphold its position that banning corporate political expenditures is a violation of the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee.Full Article: Senate Democrats Eye DISCLOSE Act Again : Roll Call News.
The White House on Friday responded to a petition from watchdog groups calling for the replacement of five Federal Election Commission (FEC) commissioners before the 2012 election, but declined to comment on either a timeline or possible candidates. Ten campaign finance reform groups created a “We the People” petition calling on the Obama administration to replace five out of six commissioners. The five commissioners’ terms have expired and the commission’s deadlock is holding back further clarifications on significant issues coming out of the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling, the advocates said. While the White House emphasized the president’s similar distaste for the Citizens United decision and his support for reform, the letter stated personnel choices would not be disclosed publicly prior to final decisions.Full Article: White House responds to petition on replacing FEC commissioners - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room.
For decades, the one piece of campaign finance reform that Democrats and Republicans agreedabout was the importance of disclosure. For example, in 2000, House Republican Amo Houghton explained that “[w]e need disclosure by section 527 organizations, but when 501(c) groups intervene in the political process, they should disclose what they are doing and who is paying for it as well.” Lately, though, the GOP has changed its mind about political transparency, and the current debate over increased disclosure requirements for independent election spending has sharply divided on partisan lines. Given the huge volumes of money being spent to swing the 2012 election — with millions being spent by non-profit 501(c) groups with secret donors — it’s long past time for a new bipartisan consensus in favor of transparency. Democrats like Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who recently introduced the DISCLOSE Act of 2012 in the Senate, are leading the way, but they need a new generation of Republican leaders to join them.Full Article: DISCLOSE 2012 Will Make Mandatory Disclosure Mandatory | Brennan Center for Justice.
Voting Blogs: The DISCLOSE Act and the Non-Profit Campaign Finance Loophole | Legislation & Policy Brief Blog
Thanks in no small part to the efforts of comedian Stephen Colbert, the issues around Super PACs and the campaign finance regime in this country have been elevated in the national consciousness. People following campaign finance are aware of the now famous 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), which held that corporate and union political speech, in the form of spending on independent and electioneering communications, is protected by the First Amendment. However, there is still considerable misunderstanding about how the system works and why corporate and union donations remain largely undisclosed. This post will attempt to briefly explain the main forces at work in keeping these donations in the shadows and the current most viable legislative fix, the Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections (DISCLOSE) Act of 2012 recently reintroduced in the House. Super PACs are among the hottest discussion topics this campaign season and are used as shorthand for the problem that ail our campaign finance system, but, in fact, the issues around Super PACs are not quite so simple. Super PACs emerged not directly from the Citizens United decision but from a subsequent DC Circuit court case called SpeechNow v. FEC. In that case, the court held that corporations and unions were permitted to make unlimited donations to support political committees making so-called independent expenditures – political spending not coordinated with a campaign. After that decision the FEC began permitting independent expenditure political action committees (IE-PACs) which were soon dubbed Super PACs.Full Article: » The DISCLOSE Act and the Non-Profit Campaign Finance Loophole Legislation & Policy Brief Blog.
National: Sunshine for the Super PAC: The DISCLOSE Act Would Eliminate Anonymous Donors | Georgetown Public Policy Review
Last month, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced an updated version of the DISCLOSE Act, legislation aimed at improving transparency in campaign-related spending. Senator Whitehouse’s attention is certainly warranted. Right now, corporations and labor unions can unload their treasuries into independent expenditures. Super PACs and traditional PACs are operating under the same roof. The relevant regulatory body, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), can’t decide if a candidate filming an advertisement specifically for a DNC TV spot qualifies as coordinating with the DNC. In short, campaign finance is a mess. Oddly enough, the revised edition of the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Elections (DISCLOSE) Act would not change any of that. Yet, by addressing one critical issue, the DISCLOSE Act has the potential to be the most important piece of legislation debated by Congress in 2012.Full Article: Sunshine for the Super PAC: The DISCLOSE Act Would Eliminate Anonymous Donors | Georgetown Public Policy Review.
Russian dolls are an attractive toy for children — peel back the layers of wooden figurines until the smallest doll is revealed. But imagine a campaign finance system in which the identity of political donors is shielded from public knowledge. Peel back the layers of this doll and rather than learning who is financing a political advertisement, all you get is the name of a benign-sounding group. Such is the state of disclosure laws today, which were made worse after the influx of new money allowed by Citizens United. The DISCLOSE Act of 2012, being considered today by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, goes a long way to remedy this problem — as Brennan Center testimony illustrates.Full Article: Peeling Back the Layers of Super PACs | Brennan Center for Justice.