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September 22, 2022

King Votes for Cleaner Elections and Clearer Campaign Ads to Improve Democratic Process

DISCLOSE Act would require “Dark Money” groups to disclose their donors to restore faith in democracy, but does not reach 60-vote threshold

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), today voted for the DISCLOSE Act, comprehensive legislation to strengthen the democratic process by creating more transparency in political spending and elections. The legislation, which failed to gain any Republican votes and reach the necessary sixty-vote threshold, would require organizations spending money in federal elections to disclose their donors, help get foreign money out of elections, and require all election ads to state by whom they are funded. The effort was cosponsored by Senator King, and builds on his continued efforts to create a more transparent, fair democratic process.

“The foundation of American democracy is that everyday people can make their voices heard and hold their leaders accountable. Dark money is a real and present threat to these democratic values – it removes accountability from our political process, and drowns out the voices of voters with those of anonymous special interests,” said Senator King. “Not only are incessant ads paid for by ‘Americans for Green Grass’ frustrating, they’re a real threat our democratic principles. If a nurse in Stonington donates $75 dollars to their political candidate it’s disclosed, but if a billionaire wants to pour millions into an election they can do it anonymously – it simply makes no sense, and it’s not fair.

“The DISCLOSE Act would have ended this disparity and brought long overdue transparency to our political process by requiring dark money groups to finally disclose who is backing them. It also would have taken a much-needed step to keep foreign money out of American elections,” Senator King continued. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant, especially for dark money’s corrosive effects on our democratic process. I’m disappointed that my Republican colleagues didn’t support this commonsense effort; I honestly don’t understand why it could be even slightly controversial.”  

Citizens United and subsequent Supreme Court rulings currently permit super PACs and certain types of tax-exempt groups, such as 501(c)(4) nonprofits, to spend unlimited sums in elections. Many of those groups are not required to disclose their donors, allowing wealthy corporations and individuals to spend unlimited, undisclosed – or “dark” – money without being publicly tied to the television attack ads and other election activity the groups carry out.

The Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act includes provisions to:

Strengthen Dark-Money Disclosure

  • Requires super PACs, 501(c) “dark money” groups, corporations, and other organizations spending more than $10,000 in elections and on judicial nominations to promptly disclose donors who contribute more than $10,000.
  • Shuts down the use of transfers between organizations to cloak the identity of the source contributor.
  • Allows organizations to establish a segregated fund from which to pay for election spending, in which case only donors to the fund would need to be disclosed.

Close Loopholes in the Foreign Money Ban

  • Strengthens prohibitions against foreign actors participating in election spending in the United States, including in state and local referenda.
  • Prohibits the establishment of corporations to conceal election contributions and donations by foreign actors.

Promote transparency in Election Ads

  • Expands “stand by your ad” disclosure requirements to online ads and ads that may promote or attack a candidate but stop short of expressly advocating for a vote for or against a candidate.
  • Requires identification of top funders of outside groups paying for video, text, or audio political ads.

Senator King has been committed to improving voter trust and engagement in America through increased transparency. He has previously introduced the Real Time Transparency Act, which would require that all political contributions of $1,000 or more be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) within 48 hours, and cosponsored the Sunlight for Unaccountable Non-Profits (SUN) Act, which would require the IRS to publish the names of any donors who give more than $5,000 to tax-exempt political organizations. Senator King also cosponsored the Spotlight Act, which aims to identify the dark money political donors that seek to influence political debate anonymously.

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