Citizens United: Iowa’s Response


The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case has rendered 24 states’ election laws unconstitutional. The 5-4 ruling in favor of Citizens United reversed a provision of the McCain-Feingold act that prohibited any electioneering communication—defined as advertising via broadcast, cable or satellite that is paid for by corporations or labor unions. Many states have acted fast to counter corporations’ ability to spend endless amounts of money to influence elections by passing laws that force disclosure of all independent expenditures in near real time. The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group has decided to report what each of these states is doing to respond to the highly-contested ruling. This week we’re starting with Iowa:

State: Iowa

Bill: SB 2354

Passed: Yes


Iowa is going beyond other states in its response to the Citizens United case by requiring an organization’s executive board or leadership to provide a written approval notice for any independent expenditure made on the group’s behalf.
Also, like other states that have had to repeal laws prohibiting independent expenditures, the state is requiring electronic disclosure that will be available to the public in near-real time. Organizations paying for ads must disclose details about the expenditure within 48 hours of the ad going out to the public, or the money being spent, whichever is sooner. Iowa is currently redesigning parts of its Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board website to accommodate the new provision. Previously, disclosure notices were submitted handwritten and had to be scanned in.
Like Minnesota, Iowa is requiring nonprofits to disclose funders–but this provision is restricted to contributions received specifically to be used for independent expenditures. Charlie Smithson, Executive Director of Iowa’s campaign disclosure board, admits that enforcement of this provision will be tricky.
Another provision unique to Iowa, although similar to the DISCLOSE Act in Congress now, is a prohibition against organizations that are owned by or are subsidiaries of foreign corporations from making independent expenditures. 
Smithson says that the new requirements coming from this law are “enhancing transparency in the state’s elections,” and “provide much more detail than in the past.”
The law is currently active, but the disclosure information won’t be available to the public until the website is complete. Smithson is confident the website will up in time for  this year’s election.