Udall, Heinrich Introduce Spotlight Act to Hold Washington Accountable and Increase Transparency in Elections

Senators’ legislation will overturn Trump administration rule, shedding more light on major campaign contributors

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with 25 of their colleagues, are holding Washington accountable with a push to tear down a new Trump administration rule allowing special interests to hide those who are funding political campaigns.

The senators joined U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in officially introducing the Spotlight Act to reverse the Treasury Department’s decision that allows non-profit organizations that engage in political activity to avoid disclosing certain donor information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  The Spotlight Act also requires these organizations to disclose the names of donors to the public, not just the IRS.

“Secret, undisclosed money has flooded our electoral system and completely drowned out the voices of everyday citizens. Now, the Trump administration is making an already rigged system even worse -- ending some of the limited disclosure we have about who is spending these unlimited sums of money to try to buy our democracy,” said Udall. “The American people look to our political process – and decisions like these by the Trump administration -- and see a system that is fundamentally broken. We need to pass reforms like the Spotlight Act and the We the People Democracy Reform package to restore public faith in our democracy.”

“Without disclosure, anonymous donors can spend huge sums of unchecked money to poison our politics and rig the system in favor of the wealthy, the powerful, and even foreign adversaries. The integrity of our democratic process relies on Americans knowing exactly who is behind the special interest groups trying to influence our elections,” said Heinrich. “I’m proud to support the Spotlight Act to take an important step in restoring transparency and accountability in our democracy.” 

Under current law, 501(c)(3) organizations are required to provide donor information to the IRS, however, the Treasury Secretary has discretion over whether to require donor information from other types of tax-exempt organizations. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin recently decided he would not collect that information any more.

The Spotlight Act will specifically require three classes of nonprofit organizations (501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6)) to disclose publicly and to the IRS the names and information of donors who contribute more than $5,000.

The bill is available here.