This week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman adopted bold new disclosure rules to shine a light on dark money spent on elections in New York. Effective immediately, groups that spend $10,000 or more on state and local electioneering will have to publicly disclose their contributions and expenditures on the New York Open Government website. Nonprofits registered with the state will also be required to report the percentage of their expenditures that go to federal, state and local electioneering.
Last week in California, the Senate passed a version of the DISCLOSE Act. If enacted, the bill would require disclosure of donors to outside groups that run political ads.
And in Montana, Republican lawmakers this week unveiled a proposal for a ballot measure that would require any entities that spend money to influence campaigns in the state to make public information about their financial supporters.
Unlimited secret money has been fueling our elections to an ever-greater extent since 2010, when the Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United case that corporate money could be used to influence elections so long the spending is “independent” of candidates’ campaigns. The Court relied on the mistaken assumption that in the Internet era, such spending would be transparent, noting, “prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions.” What the Court failed to take into account was Congress’ inability to pass laws that would ensure the public had the spending information needed to hold “corporations and elected officials accountable.” Instead, at least $300 million in dark money was spent during the 2012 election cycle, while Congress continues to sputter along in its effort to create a disclosure regime.