What You Should Know about the DISCLOSE Act Part 1: What is the DISCLOSE Act?


The Senate is expected to vote soon on the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that will shine a light on the dark money that is overshadowing our elections. Over the next few days, we will be posting a series of blogs explaining “What You Should Know About the DISCLOSE Act.” Today’s post explains what the DISCLOSE Act would do, if enacted.

The DISCLOSE Act was first introduced in 2010 as a response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United Case, which, along with a handful of other court decisions, unleashed a torrent of dark money in our elections. So far in the 2012 election cycle, almost $140 million has been spent by Super PACs, and it’s likely that hundreds of millions more may have been spent by 501(c) nonprofit organizations. (We don’t know how much exactly, because there’s no disclosure.)

The 2012 DISCLOSE Act (which stands for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections) is the most narrowly tailored congressional response to address the flood of corporate and union spending on elections. The bill is simple. It would require groups airing election ads to disclose where they got their money.

If enacted, the DISCLOSE Act would require corporations, unions, super PACs and other secretive nonprofits to report within 24 hours of making a campaign expenditure of $10,000 or more. The names of donors who give $10,000 or more to the organization would be made public, but donors could remain anonymous by specifying that their donations to the organization were not to be used for campaign purposes.

The DISCLOSE Act is important because campaign ads are misleading. The messenger is often as important as the message in getting at the truth behind the ad. The DISCLOSE Act would help voters get to know the messenger.

The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate because of a promised Republican filibuster. But any senator who has ever supported transparency of money in politics—and there are many, including Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, John McCain and even Mitch McConnell, who has embarked on a war of misinformation in an effort to kill the bill—should vote in favor of this bill as a way to ensure voters are informed and that the corrupting influence of money in our elections can be disinfected by exposure to sunlight.

Up Next: How Does the DISCLOSE Act Shine a Light on Super PACs and Dark Money?

Update: What You Should Know About the DISCLOSE Act Part 2: How does the DISCLOSE Act Shine a Light on Super PACs and Dark Money?

What You Should Know About the DISCLOSE Act Part 3: Does the DISCLOSE Act Favor Unions?

What You Should Know About the DISCLOSE Act Part 4: Is the DISCLOSE Act Constitutional?