Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today introduced a straightforward DISCLOSE Act that would shine light on the sources of secretive corporate slush funds flooding into the 2012 federal elections. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) already has introduced a companion measure in the House. Public Citizen heartily applauds these efforts to lift the veil of secrecy cloaking who is trying to buy our elections.
The DISCLOSE Act closes gaping loopholes in current disclosure laws that allow corporations and wealthy individuals to hide their campaign spending by funneling their money through innocuous-sounding front groups.
It is a well-established norm of American politics that voters have a right to know who is paying how much for campaign ads. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the principle of disclosure over and over again – including in the disastrous 2010 Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission ruling – recognizing that who is paying for campaign advertising is valuable information that helps voters judge the merits of ads.
The transparency measure faces an uphill battle, as the Republican caucus marched in lockstep to kill a similar measure in the last congressional session. Until recently, many of these same senators supported transparency of money in politics.
Public Citizen calls upon all members of Congress, regardless of party, to stand true to their professed principles and bring this new special interest money out of the shadows. The integrity of elections must not be sacrificed to partisan politics.
Craig Holman is Public Citizen’s government reform lobbyist