I strongly support this legislation! If Citizens United gave corporations the right to speech, at the very least, citizens should know who is contributing the cash to fund political campaigns. Public companies eventually have to report such expenditures, but every corporate entity should have the strength of their convictions, and sign their name to policy they support.
Imagine if each of the vicious attack ads staining the presidential campaign had to name the five biggest donors paying for the propaganda, and end with an “I approved this ad” statement from the attack group’s chief operative.
This thin ray of sunlight is at the heart of a new House proposal to repair some of the damage done to American democracy by the Supreme Court decision allowing campaigns to be flooded with unlimited, and largely cloaked, corporate, union and other special-interest contributions.
The Disclose 2012 Act, introduced by Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, is a tighter version of the 2010 bill that was blocked in the Senate by a Republican filibuster. The new measure would require disclosure of donor names within 24 hours for contributions of $10,000 or more — making it hard for “super PACs” and other money vehicles to take advantage of loose reporting deadlines. Union and corporate leaders and others would have to own up to sponsorship in their ads, while informing shareholders and union members how their money is spent politically. Lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association and the Sierra Club would also have to disclose their campaign spending more clearly.
(click here to continue reading Sunlight on Secret Donations – NYTimes.com.)
Via Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s website, this summary:
The “DISCLOSE 2012 Act”
THIS BILL HAS 4 MAJOR REQUIREMENTS TO IMPROVE THE DISCLOSURE OF CAMPAIGN-RELATED SPENDING BY CORPORATIONS AND OUTSIDE GROUPS. IT WILL:
1. ENHANCE PUBLIC REPORTING, BY CORPORATIONS AND OTHER OUTSIDE GROUPS, OF CAMPAIGN-RELATED ACTIVITY: All corporations, unions, other outside groups, and Super PACs will have to report, to the FEC, within 24 hours of making a $10,000 campaign expenditure or financial transfer to other groups which can then be used for campaign-related activity.
2. REQUIRE CORPORATIONS AND OTHER OUTSIDE GROUPS TO STAND BY THEIR ADS: All leaders of corporations, unions, other outside groups, and Super PACs that make campaign-related Ads, will have to stand by their ads and say that he/she “approves this message,”. In addition, this bill will require the top financial contributors to be disclosed in the Television and Radio advertisements.
3. REQUIRE CORPORATIONS AND OTHER OUTSIDE GROUPS TO DISCLOSE CAMPAIGN-RELATED SPENDING TO SHAREHOLDERS AND ORGANIZATION MEMBERS: Corporations, unions, and other outside groups will have to disclose their campaign-related expenditures to their shareholders and members in their periodic and annual financial reports. This would also require these groups to make their political spending available to the public, through a hyper-link to the FEC, on their websites.
4. REQUIRE LOBBYISTS TO DISCLOSE CAMPAIGN-RELATED EXPENDITURES IN CONJUNCTION WITH THEIR LOBBYING ACTIVITIES: All Federally registered lobbyists will have to disclose their political expenditures in their Lobbying Disclosure reports in conjunction with the report of their lobbying activities.
To read the full text, click here (PDF, 29 pages).
The Sunlight Foundation blogs its support:
The bill will create robust reporting requirements for Super PACs, corporations, unions and nonprofit organizations that decide to make campaign expenditures. It will also require reporting of transfers by those groups to others making such expenditures, to prevent the money laundering that makes it easy to hide huge campaign contributions.
DISCLOSE 2012 will also require ads to contain disclaimers by the top officials of such groups, similar to the stand by your ad mandates required of candidates. In addition, shareholders and members of outside groups will be informed of campaign spending, and lobbyists will be required to report their spending on independent expenditures and electioneering communications.
When the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case, it hung its hat on the theory that systems were in place to ensure unlimited corporate and union spending would be disclosed on the Internet. The Court was, at best, naïve. Because the Court created a whole new kind of spending, there was no disclosure system in place. (And the moribund Federal Election Commission would never be able to create such a system through a rulemaking process.) DISCLOSE 2012 creates that system of transparency and as such should receive wide support from members on both sides of the aisle.
Early primary spending has demonstrated that previously unheard of expenditures will become commonplace and overwhelm the 2012 elections. At a minimum, voters have a right to know whether the Super PAC that paid for an ad they just watched is tied to a candidate, or was funded by corporation or union with very special interests. Candidates will know who is footing the bill for ads that support their candidacy, even if such ads are technically not “coordinated” with their campaigns. With DISLOSE 2012, the voters will know too.
(click here to continue reading House Democrats Introduce DISCLOSE 2012 – Sunlight Foundation.)