This week, Senators Wyden and Murkowski introduced S. 791, the Follow the Money Act, their bipartisan effort at disclosing money in politics. The bill would require groups spending $10,000 or more on election-related activity to register and disclose contributions above $1,000. The bill would also raise the threshold for contributor disclosure by candidates and political parties from $200 to $1,000.
New ideas and new voices are welcome in the effort to expose dark money in the political process. Congress should be alarmed that shadowy groups spent $1.2 billion on election-related activity in 2012, and a decision about the best way to shed light on the donors behind that money should not be based on a crass political calculation about whether the secret expenditures were worse for the other party. Democrats and Republicans alike should recognize that dark money is bad for democracy—buying access and influence to elected officials, funding negative and misleading ads that turn off voters, and taking the message of a campaign out of the candidates’ control.
Elected officials on both sides of the Capitol should follow the lead of their colleagues who are working towards bipartisan consensus on disclosing dark money.