search
Sections List
American Journal News

Senate Republicans who complain about liberal 'dark money' block bill to disclose funders

Forty-nine Republican senators voted against the DISCLOSE Act.

By Josh Israel - September 22, 2022
Share
Sheldon Whitehouse

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a bill that would have required political groups to disclose who pays for their political campaign spending. Many of those same GOP lawmakers have previously complained about the influence of “dark money” groups in the political system.

The party-line vote in the Senate on advancing the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act was 49-49. Because of the Senate’s filibuster rule, it required at least a 60-vote supermajority to pass.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that political groups could spend as much money as they wanted to support political candidates and ballot referendums as long as they did not coordinate directly with official campaigns.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion that this would not lead to corruption because voters could consider the source of the ads.

“Disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” he wrote. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

But while federal campaigns and political action committees are required to disclose who their large donors are, tax-exempt nonprofits are not.

As a result, voters frequently see ads sponsored by groups designated as 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations by the IRS committees, such as the American Action Network and Americans for Prosperity, with no way to know who is really paying for them. Such a group could claim to be for clean air, for example, and yet could spend millions backing an anti-environmental candidate without ever disclosing that its ads were entirely funded by the oil and gas industry.

Since 2010, Democratic lawmakers have been trying to bring transparency to the system by passing legislation that would require all outside groups to disclose funding sources for “independent expenditures” on communications. The Federal Election Commission defines such expenditures as those paid for “a website, newspaper, TV or direct mail advertisement that: Expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate; and [is] not made in consultation or cooperation with, or at the request or suggestion of any candidate, or his or her authorized committees or agents, or a political party committee or its agents.”

Senate Republicans have repeatedly used the filibuster to block those efforts since the bill was first introduced in 2010.

The lead sponsor of S. 4822, the current version of the DISCLOSE Act, is Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who said in July that the bill was needed to bring light to anonymous special interest influence in American democracy.

“I submit to you that the distress in our republic has much to do with corrupting political influence acquired via unlimited anonymous dark money,” he told colleagues during a Senate Rules Committee hearing. “That dark-money influence has created a disconnect between what Americans want their government to do and what it actually does. … Floods of dark money caused this mess, so we can fix it. ”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has long led the opposition to the DISCLOSE Act, denounced it on Wednesday from the Senate floor, saying that a “zombie DISCLOSE Act” would “give Democratic friends in the unelected bureaucracy even more power to police political speech and activism of private citizens. … What Democrats want is a huge new step that would reduce private citizens’ privacy and chill America’s constitutional rights.”

But in recent years, McConnell and other Republicans have frequently complained about dark money being spent by progressive organizations in support of Democratic candidates.

“Millions are being poured into Wisconsin by Dark Money groups,” lamented Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who faces a tough 2022 reelection race against the state’s Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. “I need strong grassroots support to fight back. Can I ask you to join me today?”

“Liberal special interest groups are spending more dark money to elect @GreenfieldIowa than any candidate in Iowa history,” tweeted Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst during her 2020 campaign against Democrat Theresa Greenfield

“@stevebullockmt and his dark-money allies are politicizing Coronavirus. It’s disgusting,” tweeted Montana Sen. Steve Daines during his 2020 campaign for reelection against Democrat Steve Bullock.

Sens. John Cornyn (TX), Tom Cotton (AR), and Josh Hawley (MO) have made similar objections to opaque money being spent by their political rivals.

During the March 2022 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, several GOP senators, including McConnell, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Cornyn, criticized the influence of progressive nonprofit groups in support of her nomination.

“Before the 2020 election, one far-left dark money group put Judge Jackson on their Supreme Court shortlist,” said McConnell. “Practically as soon as President Biden was sworn in, this group began spending big sums of money boosting Judge Jackson’s profile.”

But none of these Republicans voted for the DISCLOSE Act, which would have forced nonprofits to disclose who funds their efforts, and would have specifically required disclosure expenditures related to judicial confirmations.

Some of those who voted no had previously expressed support for more transparency. The no votes contradicted previous statements from a few of the opponents.

McConnell told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2000 that while he opposed campaign finance limits, he and the GOP were in favor of full transparency: “We need to have real disclosure. And so what we ought to do is broaden the disclosure to include at least labor unions and tax-exempt business associations and trial lawyers so that you include the major political players in America. Why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?”

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson explicitly told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial board during his 2010 campaign for the Senate that he favored the DISCLOSE Act: “It’s far better to have those contributions coming to the campaigns and coming to parties be disclosed. … Whatever’s a reasonable period of time. A couple days. And get those transparent postings of full disclosure of who’s donating to what group on the Internet and get that posted. I would like to see total transparency (of third party groups).”

In June 2021, Maine Sen. Susan Collins said during a speech on the Senate floor: “Certainly, there are improvements that can be made in our election laws. For example, I support efforts to disclose ‘dark money’ in campaigns.”

Polls conducted in 2021 showed overwhelming support for disclosure of dark-money donors, with a Data for Progress survey finding 73% of likely voters supporting it and a Navigator poll finding 85% support.

“Passing the DISCLOSE Act is essential to protecting our democracy. Americans are tired of wealthy corporations and billionaires buying influence and policy outcomes by flooding our elections with millions of dollars of dark money,” Arik Wolk, a spokesperson for End Citizens United/Let America Vote, told the American Independent Foundation. “They want to see our government work for us. That’s why over 90% of voters support ending dark money, and why we must keep working to shine a light on which corporations and billionaires are trying to buy our elections.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


AJ News
Get the latest news here first.

Tai News

Newsletter
Read More
Republican Bernie Moreno opposes existence of minimum wage

Republican Bernie Moreno opposes existence of minimum wage

By Jesse Valentine - February 23, 2024
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott floats building a wall on the Oklahoma border

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott floats building a wall on the Oklahoma border

By Jesse Valentine - February 22, 2024
Not if, but when: Parents of slain Parkland students urge Utah lawmakers to pass school safety bill

Not if, but when: Parents of slain Parkland students urge Utah lawmakers to pass school safety bill

By Kyle Dunphey, Utah News Dispatch - February 21, 2024
Key takeaways from Monday’s U.S. Senate Ohio Republican primary debate

Key takeaways from Monday’s U.S. Senate Ohio Republican primary debate

By Nick Evans, Ohio Capital Journal - February 20, 2024
Human, financial costs of gun violence are growing dramatically, health care group says

Human, financial costs of gun violence are growing dramatically, health care group says

By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal - February 20, 2024
Ohio Democrats introduce education bills for universal school meals, teacher pay raises

Ohio Democrats introduce education bills for universal school meals, teacher pay raises

By Susan Tebben, Ohio Capital Journal - February 15, 2024
AJ News
Latest
Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

By Jesse Valentine - February 26, 2024
Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

By Jesse Valentine - February 09, 2024
Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

By Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 31, 2024
UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom - January 24, 2024
Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

By Jesse Valentine - January 17, 2024
A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

By Bonnie Fuller - January 10, 2024
Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

By Danielle J. Brown, Maryland Matters - January 08, 2024
How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

By Jesse Valentine - January 05, 2024
NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

By Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 04, 2024
Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

By Jesse Valentine - December 22, 2023
Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

By - December 15, 2023
Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

By Jesse Valentine - December 08, 2023
Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

By Jesse Valentine - December 07, 2023
Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance - December 06, 2023
105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

By Jesse Valentine - December 05, 2023
For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - December 04, 2023
Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - November 30, 2023
Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

By Jesse Valentine - November 06, 2023
Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

By Jesse Valentine - November 03, 2023
Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

By Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today - October 24, 2023
Republican Bernie Moreno opposes existence of minimum wage

Republican Bernie Moreno opposes existence of minimum wage

By Jesse Valentine - February 23, 2024
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott floats building a wall on the Oklahoma border

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott floats building a wall on the Oklahoma border

By Jesse Valentine - February 22, 2024
More than 48,600 18-year-olds are registered to vote in Ohio, a 35% increase from late August

More than 48,600 18-year-olds are registered to vote in Ohio, a 35% increase from late August

By Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal - February 22, 2024
Not if, but when: Parents of slain Parkland students urge Utah lawmakers to pass school safety bill

Not if, but when: Parents of slain Parkland students urge Utah lawmakers to pass school safety bill

By Kyle Dunphey, Utah News Dispatch - February 21, 2024
Key takeaways from Monday’s U.S. Senate Ohio Republican primary debate

Key takeaways from Monday’s U.S. Senate Ohio Republican primary debate

By Nick Evans, Ohio Capital Journal - February 20, 2024