Post-Citizens United, Lobbying Firm Helps Explain How To Avoid Disclosure Rules


According to Talking Points Memo, the lobbying firm K&L Gates posted a “Policy and Law Alert” on the web site describing the impact of the Citizens United decision. Here’s the key passage pulled out by TPM:

[G]roups of corporations within an industry may form coalitions or use existing trade associations to support candidates favorable to policy positions that affect the group as a whole. While corporations that contribute to these expenditures might still be disclosed, this indirect approach can provide sufficient cover such that no single contributing entity receives the bulk of public scrutiny.

Ah, “sufficient cover.” Since 80% of Americans are opposed to the Citizen United ruling, this may be a great way for corporations to avoid having their names attached to electoral ads. It’s just great that K&L Gates is out there helping independent actors hide the vast sums of money they plan to spend on electoral advertising from the American people’s eyes. In response to the loophole that K&L Gates is recommending to be used, the Sunlight Foundation has called for all groups making independent expenditures to disclose donations over $200 they have received that are directed towards making the independent expenditures that Citizens United has allowed. Here’s our relevant policy summary:

I.    Create a Powerful Independent Expenditure Reporting System

Rationale: The American people have the right to know how much money corporations and labor unions spend to influence elections. Disclosure must reveal whether corporate and union contributions are being channeled through straw organizations or middlemen.

Corporations, labor unions and other organizations must be required to file electronic independent expenditure reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The reports must be filed within 48 hours of making or contracting to make an independent expenditure. Expenditures made within 60 days of an election must be filed within 24 hours.

The independent expenditure report must include the name and address of the entity making the independent expenditure as well as the date and amount of the expenditure. The report must describe the purpose of the expenditure, the medium, (whether it is a radio ad, direct mail, etc.) and it must name the candidate supported or opposed by the expenditure. It must also identify the office for which he or she is running.

Any organization making an independent expenditure must identify the name and address of any entity that has provided aggregate contributions to that organization over $200, any portion of which was used to fund the independent expenditure.

An individual who files the independent expenditure report on behalf of a corporation must certify, under penalty of perjury, that there was no coordination between the organization and the candidate. Criminal and civil penalties should apply.

The FEC shall ensure that all independent expenditure reports are online immediately upon receipt and shall create a searchable, sortable database of independent expenditures.