Senators Participate in Hearing on Protecting American Elections From Foreign Interference by Strengthening Campaign Finance Laws
***VIDEO AVAILABLE HERE***
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) helped introduce a new version of the DISCLOSE Act, legislation sponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), to require organizations spending money in elections to disclose their donors. The new bill would also crack down on shell companies by requiring companies spending money in elections to disclose the true owner of the company, so election officials and the public know who is behind the company. Under current law, foreign nationals and foreign corporations are prohibited from engaging in any election spending. However, domestic companies with significant foreign ownership are not subject to the same restrictions. The DISCLOSE Act of 2017 would prohibit domestic corporations with significant foreign control, ownership, or direction from spending money in U.S. elections.
“Our democracy is undermined when corporations and special interests can spend limitless dollars trying to sway public opinion and inject themselves in our electoral process," said Senator Shaheen. “It is especially important that we protect our elections from the threat of foreign influence, and the DISCLOSE Act will close loopholes that make it possible for foreign governments to interfere. This legislation will help bring greater accountability, transparency and credibility to our political system and ensure the American people’s voices are heard.”
“The integrity of our elections and democracy is critical, and we must do more to stand up to the corporate special interest money unleashed by Citizens United,” Senator Hassan said. “We must also ensure that our campaign finance system is protected from foreign interference, including the threat of foreign nationals and corporations using dark money to interfere in our elections. Fixing the broken campaign finance system shouldn't be a partisan issue, and I will work with anyone on either side of the aisle who is serious about standing up to corporate special interests and getting dark money out of politics.”
With more details of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election emerging daily, the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) held a hearing on Wednesday to examine the exposure of our democracy to foreign interference through lax campaign finance laws. The hearing covered loopholes in existing law that allow foreign money to enter our elections and the threat that money poses to our national security and the integrity of our democracy.
Citizens United and related Supreme Court decisions have unleashed a flood of special interest money into our elections, helping to poison our politics and rig the system in favor of the wealthy and powerful. But this has also opened up troubling new avenues for foreign adversaries set on gaining advantage over the United States. In particular, shell corporations and tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations make it possible for anonymous donors—whether they be the Koch brothers, unknown foreign billionaires, foreign corporations, or even enemy governments—to buy influence and threaten crushing spending against political foes.
A summary of the new DISCLOSE Act is available here.