March 21, 2012
Our organizations support the DISCLOSE Act introduced today by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and a number of other Senators. We strongly urge Senators to promptly consider and pass this essential campaign finance disclosure legislation.
The organizations include: Americans for Campaign Finance Reform, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, People For the American Way, Public Citizen and the Sunlight Foundation.
It is a cardinal principle of campaign finance laws that citizens have a basic right to know about the expenditures being made to influence their votes and the donors funding these expenditures.
In the wake of the Citizens United decision, however, more than $135 million in secret contributions were spent to influence the 2010 congressional races. This amount of secret money is expected to greatly increase in the 2012 national elections, absent new disclosure provisions.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly supported the constitutionality and importance of campaign finance disclosure laws. In Citizens United, the Supreme Court by an 8 to 1 vote upheld disclosure laws for outside groups making campaign-related expenditures stating:
The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.
The Citizens United decision, however, combined with ineffective FEC disclosure regulations to open gaping loopholes in the campaign finance disclosure laws.
The DISCLOSE Act closes these loopholes with effective new disclosure requirements.
Unlike the DISCLOSE Act considered in 2010, the legislation introduced today focuses solely on disclosure provisions and does not contain any special exceptions for any group. The legislation also fixes the problem of untimely disclosure of donors to Super PACs that surfaced during the 2012 presidential primaries.
Polls show overwhelming public support for disclosure by outside spending groups and there are no legitimate policy or constitutional grounds for opposing the DISCLOSE Act. We strongly urge Senators to support the new DISCLOSE Act and to take all necessary steps to promptly enact the legislation.
Americans for Campaign Finance Reform
Brennan Center for Justice
Campaign Legal Center
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
League of Women Voters
People For the American Way