Bennet, Tester, Wyden Introduce Bill to Shine a Light on Dark Money in Politics

Spotlight Act Would Increase Transparency by Requiring Political Non-Profits to Disclose Donors

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and several other colleagues, introduced the Spotlight Act to shine a light on dark money political donors and hold the government accountable to enforce our nation's campaign finance laws. 

The Spotlight Act would require certain political non-profit organizations to disclose their donors to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), reversing a Trump-era rule that eliminated the requirement and allowed such organizations to keep their donors secret. 

“We have to fix a broken campaign finance system that has become unaccountable to the American people and overrun with dark money political spending,” said Bennet. “The Spotlight Act would reverse the Treasury Department’s inexplicable rule that allows dark money donors to hide in the shadows and avoid disclosure. The American people have a right to know who is spending money in their elections.”

“Democracy 21 strongly supports the Spotlight Act, which overrides the irresponsible action taken by the Trump administration that eliminated the requirement for certain nonprofits to disclose their significant donors to the Internal Revenue Service,” said Fred Wertheimer, Founder and President of Democracy 21. “The removal of the contribution disclosure requirement opened the door for foreign interests to illegally launder money through nonprofit groups to influence our elections without the government having any ability to know about or track these actions. The Spotlight Act closes a dangerous dark money loophole for illegal foreign money to be secretly laundered into our elections.”

The Spotlight Act would reverse the Trump Administration’s policy change that allows non-profit organizations that engage in political activity, like donating to candidates and purchasing political ads, to avoid disclosing certain donor information to the IRS. By reversing this policy change, the Spotlight Act would require three classes of nonprofit organizations—501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6)— that engage in political activity to provide the IRS with the names and basic information of donors who contribute more than $5,000. It would also prevent future administrations from rolling disclosure requirements back again.

Bennet first introduced this legislation in 2018. In addition to Bennet, Tester, and Wyden, this legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Angus King (D-Maine), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

The bill text is available HERE.