WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) joined with a group of his colleagues to announce a new legislative package aimed at reforming America’s campaign finance system and making government more accountable to the people. The package includes a bill authored by Senator King that would require real-time transparency in federal elections as well as legislation that would amend the Constitution to end unlimited campaign contributions and provisions that would reform the lobbying laws to limit special interest influence on elected officials.
“Campaigns are no longer fought out between the candidates, they are battles between outside money groups on both sides – and the candidates are almost a second thought. The amount of outside money that is being spent on these campaigns is unbelievable,” said Senator King. “Make no mistake, this is a threat to the democratic system in this country. We can look around the world where oligarchs control the government, and we’re allowing that to happen here before our very eyes. It’s not healthy and it’s not right, and it’s not consistent with the vision of the geniuses who founded this country.
“In Maine, we still have town meetings, and there is no finer example of democracy at work. Anybody can speak, and anybody can try to influence the vote – but you can’t go to the town meeting with a bag over your head,” Senator King said. “You have to let people know who you are, because that’s part of the information we all need in order to assess the messages that are being delivered to us. And that’s why disclosure is a key part of this initiative. We’re going to keep at this, and ultimately we’re going to prevail, because the American people will demand that this system be cleaned up.”
Specifically, the legislation announced today includes provisions that would:
Make Government More Accountable Through Campaign Disclosure and Transparency
- Require all candidates for federal office to report major campaign contributions within 48 hours. This provision is similar to the Real Time Transparency Act, introduced by Senator King last year that would require all candidates for federal office, including those for the U.S. Senate, to report contributions of over $1000 to the FEC within 48 hours. Today, not all candidates for federal office report campaign contributions in real-time.
- Rein in the “dark money” SuperPACs. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision led to a huge growth in the amount of secret money “SuperPACs.” This provision would shut down individual-candidate Super PACs and strengthen rules that prohibit coordination between other outside spenders and candidates and parties.
- Mandatory disclosure of all special interest campaign donations. Citizens United unleashed a flood of undisclosed corporate dark money on our elections. This provision authored would require organizations spending money in elections – including Super PACS and tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups – to promptly disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle. The provision includes robust transfer provisions to prevent political operatives from using complex webs of entities to game the system and hide donor identities.
- Reform the Federal Election Commission to ensure campaigns and special interests follow the law. This provision would replace the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission (FEC) and create a new independent agency to serve as a vigilant watchdog over our nation’s campaign finance system. The newly established agency would consist of five commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and would have greater enforcement and investigation powers than those of the gridlocked FEC. Unlike the existing FEC, the new agency would be empowered to hold candidates, politicians, and their financial supporters accountable for violating campaign finance laws.
Strengthen the Lobbying Laws to Limit Special Interest Influence in Congress
- Enact a permanent ban on lobbying by former Members of Congress. Current law prohibits Senators from lobbying for a two-year period after leaving Congress. House members have a one-year ban on lobbying. This provision permanently bans both House and Senate members from lobbying either house of Congress after they retire.
- Close the reporting loopholes that allow consultants not to register as lobbyists. This provision would require lobbyists to register if he or she makes two or more lobbying contacts for a client over a two-year period, regardless of whether the lobbyist spends more than 20 percent of his or her time serving the particular client.
Close the Financial Services Industry’s Revolving Door
- Prohibit financial services companies from paying huge bonuses when employees take jobs in the federal government. This provision would prohibit private sector employers from offering bonuses to employees for leaving to join the government. The provision also includes language that would slow the revolving door by increasing cool down periods for those leaving government service and expanding recusal requirements for those entering.
Amend the Constitution to Stop Wealthy Special Interests from Making Unlimited Campaign Contributions
- Fix the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision by amending the Constitution and putting real limits on campaign financing. This constitutional amendment resolution would provide Congress and the states with power to enact campaign finance reforms that withstand constitutional challenges. It also would provide the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, including those made by corporations and Super PACs.
In addition to today’s unveiling of the campaign finance reform legislative package, Senator King has also chaired two Senate Rules Committee Hearings to examine the influence of dark money on U.S. elections and underscore the urgency of expanding disclosure requirements for campaign contributions.
Senator King is joined in his support of the legislation by Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Michael Bennet (D-Col.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).