Bennet Introduces New Bill to Shine Light on Anonymous Campaign Spending

Bill Would Help Correct Problem Created by Citizens United Decision

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today, along with a group of Senators, introduced a bill to address the worst of the problems caused by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The DISCLOSE Act of 2012 will help put an end to secretive campaign spending by strengthening disclosure laws.

The bill is cosponsored by 34 Senators in addition to Bennet, including his colleagues on a campaign finance reform task force: Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Al Franken (D-MN). 

“The Supreme Court reversed itself and decades of precedent with its Citizens United ruling. Now, Coloradans and Americans are being bombarded by attack ads, super PACs skirt accountability and the presidency might well be determined by a silent auction,” said Bennet. “The DISCLOSE Act would bring these attack ads, their contributors and these shadowy organizations into the light and help restore Americans’ faith in our election system.”

The DISCLOSE Act requires any covered organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours, detailing the amount and nature of each expenditure over $1,000 and the names of all of its donors who gave $10,000 or more.  Transfer provisions in the bill prevent donors from using shell organizations to hide their activities.

To make sure that organizations and individuals take responsibility for their negative or misleading political advertising, the legislation also includes “stand-by-your-ad” disclaimer requirements that require any organization that puts a political ad on TV or radio to list its top funders in the ads.  The head of the organization also must appear in the ad and state that he or she approves the message, just as candidates must do now.

The Citizens United Task Force was announced last week, and members of the task force have been actively working to reduce the impact of the decision since it was issued by the Supreme Court in 2010. Bennet and Tom Udall have introduced a constitutional amendment to grant Congress and the states the authority to regulate the campaign finance system.  Last month, Bennet led members of the task force in calling on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate whether organizations claiming tax-exempt status are engaging in a substantial amount of campaign activity. Members of the task force have also sponsored legislation requiring increased disclosure and asked the FEC and FCC to intervene so voters know who is funding campaign commercials. 

The other cosponsors of the DISCLOSE Act are Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Carl Levin (D-MI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jim Webb (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).