Because the Senate failed to pass the DISCLOSE Act before the 2010 election, American voters do not know the full extent of who tried to influence their vote through political spending. That is why the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, along with a number of other groups including CREW, Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters, today called on Congress to pass a targeted disclosure bill during the lame duck session. Unless Congress enacts a robust, targeted disclosure bill now, the amount of secret money in the 2012 election season will eclipse the spending in 2010.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, this election season companies, unions and wealthy individuals laundered nearly $300 million of dark money through outside groups, not including the political parties. Sunlight’s own analysis of the outside spending this election showed that $126 million of such funds were raised and spent without the disclosure of donors.
The Citizens United case, which opened the floodgates to dark money, made clear that disclosure is a constitutional and crucial antiseptic to the corrupting influence of money in politics. Without it, Americans will never know the names or interests of contributors to the shadow non-profits and Super PACs that played an outsized role in the midterm elections. All election-related information must be available online in real-time to ensure our campaign finance system is fully transparent.
Preventing corruption of our democracy by secret campaign spending far too important for lawmakers from either party to weigh down a disclosure bill with extraneous provisions. A streamlined, focused disclosure bill that still digs deep into the real contributors to campaign activity must be at the top of Congress’ must-pass list during the lame duck session.