Endorsements and mentions by newspaper editorial boards about the Sunlight Foundation’s policies and projects.
Recent Press Editorials
The Spokesman-Review (Wash.) —
The Citizens United ruling – coupled with subsequent changes in election laws – paved the way for deep-pocketed contributors to give to super-PACS without having to disclose their names. These super-PACs became central players in the 2012 elections, even though they were supposed to remain neutral to justify their tax status. To get around that restriction, groups claimed their official tasks were to educate the public, but everyone knows they were engaged in partisan politics, whether it was Crossroads GPS, directed by former George W. Bush aide Karl Rove, or Priorities USA Action, directed by former Obama campaign official Bill Burton.
The money from these groups was poured into advertising in swing states and swing districts. It’s laughable to believe that these are the only areas of the country in need of “education.”
However, the Cincinnati office’s choice to hone in on conservative groups indicates that the law was not being enforced fairly. That’s too bad, because it’s clear that this tax status is being exploited for political purposes by people who wish to remain anonymous. The names of 501(c)(4) donors do not have to be disclosed. Congress could help matters by passing the DISCLOSE Act, which would help lift the veil on secret contributions, but stupidity at the IRS has provided ammunition to those who prefer the status quo.
New York Times —
The Internal Revenue Service was absolutely correct to look into the abuse of the tax code by political organizations masquerading as “social welfare” groups over the last three years. The agency’s mistake — and it was a serious one — was focusing on groups with “Tea Party” in their name or those criticizing how the country is run.
The I.R.S. should have used a neutral test to scrutinize every group seeking a tax exemption for “social welfare” activity — Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. Any group claiming tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4) of the internal revenue code can collect unlimited and undisclosed contributions, and many took in tens of millions. They are not supposed to spend the majority of their money on political activities, but the I.R.S. has rarely stopped the big ones from polluting the political system with unaccountable cash.
Last year, we supported the I.R.S. in aggressively asking Tea Party groups seeking this special tax status to prove that they were not political activists. We urged the I.R.S. to be just as tough on groups already claiming 501(c)(4) status — like Priorities USA, a Democratic group founded by former White House aides, as well as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS group and Americans Elect, a third-party group — as on Tea Party chapters seeking tax-exempt status.
The Register-Guard —
The online group sourcewatch.org quotes the Sunlight Foundation as reporting that the NRA spends 66 times as much money as the leading gun control group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. And OpenSecrets.org says the NRA spent $25 million on advertising during the 2012 election cycle and spends $3 million per year on federal lobbying.
Los Angeles Times —
The other argument is that campaign finance regulation is not the province of the SEC but of Congress, the Federal Election Commission and the courts. But those bodies have failed to act. So far, Congress has not passed the DISCLOSE Act, a measure that would mitigate the worst effects of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling by requiring disclosure of political spending, including disclosure to shareholders. And the FEC has failed to devise clear rules for post-Citizens United disclosure.
Lufkin Daily News —
The Sunlight Foundation also gives Texas an “A” for government transparency, one of ten states that received that mark. Those high marks mean Texans can easily find out what is going on in Texas government concerning issues that are of public interest.
Sacramento Bee —
Details of any SEC rule are yet to be worked out. But there is no doubt that the SEC would be performing a public service by requiring disclosure, especially in the aftermath of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision opening the way for unlimited corporate donations to independent political campaigns.
Backers suggest corporations should make the disclosure in much the same way as they issue quarterly reports. Our preference is that corporations disclose immediately on their websites and on the SEC site whenever they make a donation of, say, $25,000 or more, and provide more complete disclosure in quarterly reports.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/28/5375490/editorial-sec-could-lead-on-disclosure.html#storylink=cpy
Press Democrat —
There's a more promising bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon.
Their bill would require all groups, including tax-exempt groups, to report campaign contributions and expenditures. It's called the Follow the Money Act. That's still good advice, especially when it's campaign money.
New York Times —
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that triggered an avalanche of corporate political spending also contained a proposal for greater public disclosure from corporations that would prefer to write their checks in the shadows. Transparency, the court advised, would let voters decide for themselves “whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.”
Corporate donations are not the full sum of the dark money universe, but forcing publicly traded corporations into the sunlight would be an enormous step toward facing the threat of political corruption posed by stealth donations. The petition drive, under way for more than a year, has prompted close to 500,000 comments, a vast majority favoring disclosure. A disclosure regulation could be proposed by the S.E.C. officials in a matter of weeks.
Columbus Dispatch —
Lisa Rosenberg of the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation called Congress’ move an “epic failure,” pointing out that security concerns could have been addressed through narrow exemptions and tweaks rather than wholesale gutting of the law. She says the change sets a dangerous precedent, suggesting that government can make information difficult for anyone to obtain while claiming that it is making it publicly available.
“Are we going to return to the days when the public can use the Internet to research everything except what their government is doing?” Rosenberg wrote on the foundation’s blog. “Will Congress, in its twisted wisdom, decide that information is public if journalists, academics, advocates and citizens are forced to dig through file cabinets in basements in Washington, D.C. to find it?”
New York Times —
On the negative side of the gun safety ledger, Arkansas lawmakers have voted to allow guns in churches and on college campuses. South Dakota legislators authorized school boards to arm teachers. Tennessee residents will now be entitled to store weapons in their car at the workplace, even if the boss objects. Patently unconstitutional proposals declaring any new federal gun control null have been introduced in 36 state legislatures, according to the Sunlight Foundation.