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Omnibus Rider Keeps Americans in the Dark

A new budget bill has just been released and it’s clear that voters are getting the losing end of a last-minute bargain forged to keep the government from shutting down.

Perhaps with the hopes that Americans would be too busy preparing for the holidays to notice, Congress has packed the “omnibus” mega budget bill that appropriates spending for agencies with ideological riders that blatantly favor corporate interests. And while several bad campaign finance riders were kept out of the package thanks to the hard work of our champs on the Hill, unfortunately there were still several disastrous provisions included in the just-released omnibus package.

Arguably the worst of the bunch, the budget bill includes a rider that prohibits the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from writing a rule requiring corporations to disclose their political spending. Currently, corporations are free to funnel secret money into our political process, drowning out the voice of the people and endangering our democracy and there is no way for Americans to know who is paying for what (or who).

For years now, Americans of all stripes have been calling on the SEC to take action so that investors and customers can make informed decisions and hold corporations accountable for the causes they support and the money they spend on elections. In fact, 88 percent of Americans — Democrats and Republicans alike — support such a rule.

So while the lights are set to stay on in the Capitol, the American people will remain in the dark.

The budget should not be used as a bargaining chip. Millions of hard working Americans count on employment with the federal government to feed their families during the holiday season. However, when Big Money interests pack the budget full of poison-pill riders like this, we can’t support its passage. And when Congress can’t pass a budget, we put those jobs and those families at risk.

Americans deserve a clean budget. We cannot allow the American people to be held hostage by the interests of the billionaire class.

Here are two things we can do right now to protect our democracy:

1.    Tell Congress to strip the SEC rider and other damaging riders from the omnibus package and to not vote for any budget bill that contains such a rider so that the American public can finally know who’s buying who;

2.    Tell President Obama to sign an executive order requiring all government contractors to disclose their political spending, so that we can begin to know who’s attempting to influence our elections.

We can’t let corporations stop the SEC from shining light on secret elections money.

Cameron Berube is the democracy associate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division