Transparency in Government and Campaign Finance Reform

From ensuring details of campaign donations and political spending are revealed, to shining a light on the ties between lobbyists and lawmakers, Public Citizen pushes to ensure we have as open and honest a government as possible.

Campaign Finance Reform

One of the most important ways to determine who is influencing lawmakers is to determine who is giving them money. A constant battle is being waged between people who want their contributions to politicians kept hidden and those who believe that voters have a right to know who is giving how much to whom. Public Citizen fights for transparency of political spending, particularly by corporations and the wealthy.

The SEC Needs to Demand Disclosure of Political Spending

The Call for an Executive Order Requiring Federal Contractors to Disclose Political Spending

  • Advisory: Twitter town hall calling on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order on disclosure.

  • Letter to President Barack Obama urging him to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending.

  • Activists delivered one million signatures to the White House calling on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending.

  • The Corporate Reform Coalitions calls on SEC Chair Mary Jo White to acknowledge the strong demand for a rule requiring disclosure of corporate political spending.

  • Public Citizen applauds members of the U.S. House and Senate that have urged President Obama to establish an executive order that will require government contractors to disclose political spending.

Dark Money in Politics Plagues Democracy

  • Public Citizen shines light on District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Browser’s refusal to answer campaign finance reform questions. This illuminates the need for campaign finance reform by the D.C. council.
  • Public Citizen supports a proposal to help maintain the transparency and integrity of U.S. elections by closing a loophole that allows foreign money to flow in.
  • Public Citizen watchdogs the 2016 presidential conventions to keep an eye on which corporate donors, lobbyists and other wealthy special interest groups are financing the conventions.
  • Public Citizen calls on Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin to require litigants to disclose their judicial campaign spending.
  • Report: Expansion of protection for corporate speech threatens political spending disclosure.
  • Public Citizen submits testimony to the FEC calling for full transparency of money in elections, stronger coordination and earmarking rules to capture single-candidate PACs and limits on joint fundraising committees.
  • Release: The U.S. Senate holds a hearing on the damaging trend of secret money in elections.
  • Report: “Outside Spenders, Local Elections,” shows unregulated, undisclosed spending plagues local elections.

Government Reform


Congressional Ethics

  • Public Citizen calls out House Republicans for yet another assault on government ethics as they attempt to end ethics oversight over the Trump administration.

  • Public Citizen urges the Securities and Exchange Commission and Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate stock trading by Trump’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.).


Lobbying Disclosure & Reform

  • Detailed description of one of two statutes that regulates the disclosure of lobbying activity by foreign principals and foreign agents.

IRS Rules Relating to Nonprofit Political Activity

  • Public Citizen calls President Trump’s promise to destroy the Johnson Amendment a way to allow dark and undisclosed money to flow from charities and churches into politics.

  • Advisory: Evangelical and progressive groups call for clearer IRS rules for nonprofit spending in political campaigns.

  • Public Citizen, reform groups and Rep. Van Hollen sued the IRS for proper regulations of 501(c)(4) organizations abusing their tax-exempt status to make secret political donations.

Legislation for Accountability and Transparency

  • Public Citizen applauds the “We The People” legislative package to deal with secret corporate political spending, lobbyist influence, the revolving door and other facets of the campaign finance system.
  • Statement: Make the FCC online disclosures of political and buys 'searchable, sortable and downloadable.
  • Public Citizen strongly supports the DISCLOSE Act of 2014, which would require all entities (non-profits, super PACs, etc.) to disclose all significant donors.
  • A blog post about the Senate's vote on the DISCLOSE Act and what it could mean for the future of election spending.
  • Public Citizen applauds the Sunshine in Litigation Act of 2014, which would help limit court-endorsed secrecy in cases that involve critical safety information.
  • Public Citizen applauds Senators Reed and Grassley for introducing the Government Settlement Transparency and Reform Act, taking a step for corporate accountability in the regulatory sphere.
  • Public Citizen applauds ‘Truth in Settlements Act,’ which calls for greater disclosure by Justice Department in major settlements.

National Security Agency Transparency

Coalition letter asks the NSA and the USTR to disclose whether any U.S. groups or individuals aiming to influence trade policy are under surveillance.

Regulation Transparency

  • Public Citizen supports legislation that would increase transparency and accountability at the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).
  • Statement: OIRA needs more transparency.
  • Public Citizen applauds a congressional forum that shined a spotlight on the problem of regulatory capture due to a revolving door between industry and government.
  • Read Public Citizen’s demand for a transparent and efficient OIRA, the federal agency that scrutinizes new regulations.

Transparency and the White House

To promote transparency and accountability, Public Citizen releases a compilation of candidate-Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp,” stop “rigged” Wall Street and the “hypocrites” that were his opponents.

Public Citizen says Trump must put his businesses in a blind trust to show Americans there is no conflict of interest during his presidency.

Public Citizen host an event to discuss ethics and transparency during the 2016 presidential transition planning.

This useful online resource for following campaign bundlers by election year, candidate, bundler and state.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Public Citizen's U.S. Chamber Watch promotes transparency and accountability by shedding light on the the largest private interest lobbyist in America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

  • 20 organizations call on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to follow six principles that would make it a more transparent and responsible player in the American political system.

  • Report: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce dominates in undisclosed spending for congressional races.

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report with outrageous claims that a Dodd-Frank Pay-Ratio Disclosure law would take the average firm 952 hours to calculate the median pay of company employees.

  • Check out a Public Citizen study that finds the US Chamber of Commerce lacking nearly any transparency.

Influence-Peddling Laws

Several federal laws and regulations either restrict lobbyists’ activities or mandate disclosure of their activities. Some of the laws, such as the Lobbying Disclosure Act, are written specifically for lobbyists. Others, such as the House and Senate rules on contributions to legal defense funds, include provisions that affect lobbyists.

Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act Materials

Here you'll find extensive materials specific to this legislation, which prohibits members of Congress from trading on insider knowledge.

Finance, Wall Street and Consumer Protections


Forced Arbitration

More than ever, consumers are forced to surrender their rights every time they obtain a product or service, including credit cards, checking accounts, cell phone service and even jobs. Businesses often hide forced arbitration clauses in the fine print, leaving many consumers unaware to the risk they take by signing a contract.

  • Public Citizen applauds the Obama administration’s rule prohibiting “rip-off clauses” in nursing home contracts.
  • Public Citizen applauds the Obama administration for issuing rules to ensure that government contractors cannot evade federal anti-discrimination and sexual harassment laws by forcing their workers into arbitration proceedings.
  • Release: Comments submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau urging it to limit the use of forced arbitration clauses in contracts that prevent consumers from filing class-action lawsuits.
  • Public Citizen tells the Department of Education to strengthen its proposed rule to protect students from forced arbitration clauses hidden in school contracts.
  • Public Citizen commends the U.S. Department of Education for proposing a rule designed to protect students who have been victimized by predatory colleges and career training programs.
  • The U.S. Senate holds hearing on the problem of non-disparagement clauses that restrict consumers ability to speak.
  • Activists call for Citigroup and other banks to revoke their forced arbitration clause that rips off consumers by stripping their right to sue in court.
  • Coalition tells the Department of Education to protect students from fine print in enrollment forms that block their access to courts.
  • Public Citizen and advocates turn to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to shine light on the widespread, unjust corporate practice of forced arbitration.
  • Public Citizen and consumer advocates warn about the harms of forced arbitration during National Consumer Protection Week.

Shareholder Protections

  • Release: More than 59,000 emails were sent to Vanguard, the nation’s largest manager of retirement savings, urging the company to change its policy on corporate political spending disclosure.

  • Shareholders and students demand accountability from Sallie Mae by disclosing all lobbying expenditures.

  • Statement: Public Citizen hopes that Google will disclose not just their workforce diversity, but also their political spending and lobbying expenditures.

  • Shareholders demand Google to disclose their political spending at the annual shareholders meeting. 

  • Public Citizen and the Corporate Reform Coalition called on Kraft Foods Group, Inc. to keep money out of politics and be transparent with their shareholders on which issues Kraft is spending money to lobby lawmakers.

  • Press release: Google’s Lack of Political Spending Transparency Threatens Brand, Hurts Democracy.

  • Read Public Citizen, consumer groups and shareholders call for Starbucks CEO Schultz to institute corporate policy against political spending.


Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform

  • Alert: The SEC will finalize a rule requiring all publicly traded companies to disclose the CEO’s pay as a multiple of the median-paid worker at the firm.

  • Public Citizen applauds the U.S. Senate’s call to implement the CEO pay disclosure rule.