WASHINGTON, D.C. — With more details of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election emerging daily, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich cosponsored legislation led by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to address threats to America’s campaign finance system.
“The Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Citizens United has allowed secret, dark money to flood into our elections – drowning out the voices of regular citizens. And Russia’s interference into our election – and the apparent collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials – has shown the American people that foreign governments can and will undermine our democratic process,” said Udall. “Our existing campaign finance laws are not nearly sufficient to ensure that the American people have full ownership over their democracy. Big corporations and billionaires can spend freely and anonymously, and Russia and other foreign adversaries can exploit the lack of disclosure in our campaign finance system to secretly funnel money into American elections. We urgently need to pass the DISCLOSE Act to shine a light on secret money and return our democracy to we the people.”
“American elections belong to the American people, not to corporations or foreign governments,” said Heinrich. “We've seen how the influence of unlimited campaign contributions and dark money in politics derails important issues that matter to working families in New Mexico. We need to restore transparency and accountability to our political system and the integrity of U.S. democratic institutions.”
Citizens United and related Supreme Court decisions have unleashed a flood of special interest money into our elections, helping to poison our politics and rig the system in favor of the wealthy and powerful. But this has also opened up troubling new avenues for foreign adversaries set on gaining advantage over the United States. In particular, shell corporations and tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations make it possible for anonymous donors—whether they be the Koch brothers, unknown foreign billionaires, foreign corporations, or even enemy governments—to buy influence and threaten crushing spending against political foes.
The DISCLOSE Act would require organizations spending money in elections to disclose their donors. The new bill would also crack down on shell companies by requiring companies spending money in elections to disclose the true owner of the company, so election officials and the public know who is behind the company. Under current law, foreign nationals and foreign corporations are prohibited from engaging in any election spending. However, domestic companies with significant foreign ownership are not subject to the same restrictions. The DISCLOSE Act of 2017 would prohibit domestic corporations with significant foreign control, ownership, or direction from spending money in U.S. elections.