September 14, 2021

Whitehouse Cheers Inclusion of DISCLOSE Act in New Government Ethics & Elections Bill

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement on Senate Democrats’ compromise ethics and elections bill announced today. The bill includes Whitehouse’s DISCLOSE Act, to require organizations spending money in federal elections to disclose their donors, allowing the American people to see who is attempting to sway their elections and gain control over their government.

“The backbone of this proposal is the DISCLOSE Act, to end the scourge of dark money in our democracy. A ‘tsunami of slime’ has overwhelmed our politics since Citizens United, helping the dark money donors capture our government and courts. Dark money is behind the attacks on voting rights, partisan gerrymandering, climate denial, and the big-donor capture of the Supreme Court. Democrats are united in opposition to dark money’s corrosive effect. Now, Republicans need to choose: rid our system of dark money or let big-money secret interests tighten their grip on power.”

The DISCLOSE Act will help Americans understand who is behind the massive uptick in dark-money and other special-interest spending in recent years. Dark-money spending in our elections since Citizens United has now topped $1 billion, and the pace of spending by outside forces (i.e., not the candidates themselves) is accelerating. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, outside spenders—super PACs, dark money groups, and political parties—spent $2.6 billion in federal elections during the 2020 election cycle; that is roughly twice what was spent in the last presidential cycle in 2016.

Members of both parties long supported campaign finance disclosure prior to Citizens United. In 2003, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told NPR that spending in elections should be “limited and disclosed” so that “everyone knows who’s supporting everyone else.”

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