February 25, 2021

Shaheen & Hassan Introduce DISCLOSE Act to Crack Down on Dark Money in Elections

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) reintroduced the DISCLOSE Act with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), legislation that would require organizations spending money in federal elections to disclose their donors and guard against hidden foreign influence in our democracy.

 

“Since the Supreme Court’s catastrophic ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, our elections have been flooded with dark money from special interests seeking to influence the outcome in their favor,” said Senator Shaheen. “Citizens United also empowered malicious foreign actors by allowing them to exploit these same campaign finance loopholes, further endangering our democracy and putting our national security at risk. In order to restore transparency and accountability in our democratic process and return power to the American people, Congress must make passing the DISCLOSE Act a priority.”

 

“We must take aggressive action to rein in the influence of corporate special interests in our democratic process,” Senator Hassan said. “The DISCLOSE Act will take long overdue steps to increase accountability in our elections, and by doing so will help safeguard our democratic process and national security. I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this important legislation to return power to the voters where it belongs.”

 

Citizens United and subsequent Supreme Court rulings have allowed super PACs and certain types of tax-exempt groups, such as 501(c)(4) nonprofits, to spend unlimited sums in elections. Many of those groups are not required to disclose their donors, allowing wealthy corporations and individuals to spend unlimited, undisclosed – or “dark” – money without being tied to the television attack ads and other electioneering activity the groups carry out. 

 

The DISCLOSE Act requires organizations spending money in elections – including super PACs and 501(c)(4) dark money groups – to promptly disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle. The legislation also contains other important safeguards against special interest influence, such as language to crack down on the use of shell corporations used by donors to hide their identity, a “stand by your ad” provision requiring corporations, unions, and other organizations to identify those behind political ads – including disclosing an organization’s top five funders at the end of television ads – and reporting requirements for groups that spend money on ads supporting or opposing judicial nominees.

 

In response to the destructive Citizens United decision, Shaheen and Hassan have led efforts in Congress to overturn the case and mitigate the damage done. During the 116th Congress, Senator Shaheen introduced a Constitutional Amendment with former Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), the Democracy for All Amendment, which Senator Hassan also cosponsored, that would overturn the Citizens United ruling and help get big money out of politics. Shaheen and Hassan have long supported Congressional action to crack down on dark money in politics. Shaheen called out millions of dollars’ worth of dark money ads in New Hampshire and across the country that sought to derail bipartisan efforts in Congress that Senator Hassan led to end surprise medical billing. A report by the New York Times revealed that the group behind this ad campaign, Doctor Patient Unity, is a front for private equity firms on Wall Street.  

 

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