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Shameful: Republican House Appropriators Vote to Keep Secret Political Money Hidden

July 13, 2017

Shameful: Republican House Appropriators Vote to Keep Secret Political Money Hidden

Statements from Public Citizen Experts

Note: This evening, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee marked up the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee appropriations bill and voted against two amendments: 1) one offered by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) that would have removed a rider in the underlying bill that weakens the Johnson Amendment (a provision that prohibits charitable groups that claim tax-exemption under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code – including churches – from participating or intervening in election campaigns); and 2) one offered by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) that would have removed a rider stopping the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring companies to disclose their political spending.

“It is shameful that the Appropriations Committee today voted against transparency and for secret money in elections. Voters want fairness restored to elections and secret money removed. Instead, lawmakers voted to keep a harmful, “poison pill” policy rider that would weaken the Johnson Amendment and make churches susceptible to partisan manipulation. The Johnson Amendment is an important tool for maintaining the integrity of tax-exempt organizations such as houses of worship and charities. It allows them to speak out about important political and social issues, and maintain their important tax-exempt status as long as they don’t directly endorse a candidate. Thank you to Rep. Wasserman Schultz for trying to eliminate this harmful rider and keep churches out of the political fray. By taking steps to weaken these rules, Republicans are helping to open the floodgates for secret election spending to flow through tax-exempt organizations, essentially turning churches into super PACs. Instead of weakening these protections, we need bright lines that allow our houses of worship and charities to engage in their civic responsibilities without worrying that their tax-exempt status will be revoked.”

– Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs, Public Citizen

“The House Appropriation Committee’s actions today are an affront to voters and show that GOP lawmakers are determined to keep corporate spending in politics in the dark. The committee voted to keep a detrimental policy rider that would stop the SEC from requiring public companies to disclose their political spending and trade association dues. Thank you to Rep. Cartwright for trying to eliminate this policy rider and maintain the ability of the SEC to work on a rule that investors want. If companies are going to spend money to influence politics, investors – as owners of those companies – have a right to know how their money is being spent. Approximately 1.2 million comments have been submitted in support of the corporate political spending disclosure rulemaking at the SEC. The agency needs to be able to move forward with this important rulemaking and expand these disclosures, bringing corporate political spending into the light.”

– Rachel Curley, democracy associate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division