June 29, 2000
Public Citizen Applauds the Senate s Approval of H.R. 4762 to Force Disclosure of Secret “Section 527” Money in Elections
Bill on Way to President Clinton
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate s approval of a House bill to force the disclosure of contributions and expenditures used by so-called “Section 527 Stealth PACs” to influence elections represents a move toward a more accountable campaign finance system, but Congress still has a long way to go, Public Citizen representatives said today.
The bill, which the House passed early Wednesday morning, was approved by the Senate this morning by a vote of 92-6. The bill will now be presented to President Clinton.
The bill targets those new vehicles formed under Section 527 of the federal tax code that collect secret, unlimited contributions and have the declared primary purpose of influencing elections. Scores of these tax-exempt private groups, which come from all sides of the political spectrum, are raising and spending tens of millions of dollars to influence the 2000 federal elections without publicly reporting their existence, sponsorship, receipts, contributions or expenditures.
Not only private groups (from the prescription drug industry s Citizens for Better Medicare to the Sierra Club), but even the candidates themselves are getting into the act. For example, in this election cycle, dozens of congressional and presidential candidates have formed section 527 “State Leadership PACs” to collect unlimited “soft money” checks that candidates are prohibited from receiving via their campaign committees and federal Leadership PACs. Much of this money is being used to influence federal elections through phony issue ads that really favor or oppose candidates, partisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, political polling and travel, and transfers of funds to national party soft money accounts.
“This is an important — but modest — first step on the road to comprehensive campaign finance reform,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.?”Congress still has a long way to go to clean up the campaign finance mess. The next step is a comprehensive ban on soft money, which it ought to accomplish before it closes up shop in the fall.”