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February 12, 2021

King Seeking to Shine Light on Dark Money in Politics Through Spotlight Act

Legislation would increase transparency by requiring political non-profits to disclose donors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced that he has cosponsored the Spotlight Act, which aims to identify the dark money political donors that seek to influence political debate anonymously. The Spotlight Act would require certain political non-profit organizations to disclose their donors to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), reversing a rule that eliminated the requirement and allowed such organizations to keep their donors secret.

“Our government was created of the people, by the people, and for the people – not for a select group of secretive special interests that hope to put a finger on the scale of our democratic process,” said Senator King. “Elections are the foundation of our entire system of government, but all too often they are flooded with information from those who won’t step forward to identify themselves – which is why it is critical that we need to advance policies that support transparency and accountability. Congress needs to pass this legislation and shine a light on the dark money donors trying to sway elections, so voters have all the information they need when they cast their ballot.”

The Spotlight Act was first introduced in 2018 after the Trump Administration attempted to roll back a rule that required non-profit organizations engaged in political activity to disclose basic information about their donors. In 2019, the Trump Administration successfully implemented a second rule to roll back disclosure requirements for those non-profit organizations (including 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6) organizations). This rule allows dark money groups to hide the identities of their major donors. Senator King has cosponsored the legislation since it was first introduced in 2018.

The Spotlight Act would reinstate the original rule promoting transparency, requiring non-profit organizations that engage in political activity—like donating to candidates and purchasing political ads—to provide the IRS with the names and basic information of donors who contribute more than $5,000. It would also prevent future Administrations from rolling the rule back again. In addition to ensuring these organizations are following the law, these disclosure requirements are an important tool to keep foreign actors from influencing American elections.

Today’s announcement represents the most recent example of Senator King’s commitment to and advocacy for campaign transparency to increase voter trust and engagement in our democracy. In the last Congress, Senator King cosponsored the For the People Act, a sweeping package of legislative reforms that would strengthen anti-corruption laws and address the dominance of big money in politics. He also cosponsored the Sunlight for Unaccountable Non-Profits (SUN) Actlegislation that requires the IRS to publish the names of any donors who give more than $5,000 to tax-exempt political organizations. In September 2017, Senator King announced his support for a series of campaign finance bills called the We the People Democracy Reform Act of 2017. This bicameral legislation proposes a series of wide-ranging electoral reforms to restore integrity, accountability, and transparency to America’s political system. In March 2017, he introduced the Real Time Transparency Act, legislation to increase transparency in campaign contributions and help inform voters about who is funding the candidates on their ballot. In June 2016, Senator King joined with a group of his colleagues to announce a legislative package aimed at reforming America’s campaign finance system and making government more accountable to the people. 

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