Money in Politics


No more secret elections: The Senate must act quickly to pass DISCLOSE

The 2012 election was the most expensive in history, with hundreds of millions spent by "independent" groups that do not disclose their donors.

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, two organizations founded by Republican activist and consultant Karl Rove, spent more than $175 million; Majority PAC, a group created by Senate Democrats, threw in more than $61 million. The Koch brothers are believed to have raised and spent more than $100 million, funneling it through various groups that concealed their involvement.

"Super PACs" have proliferated since a ruling issued by the Supreme Court in January 2010 (Citizens United v. FEC) that allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want to elect or defeat federal candidates. Many of the new PACs are taking advantage of tax laws that allow them to raise unlimited amounts of money from anonymous donors.

By passing the DISCLOSE (Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) Act, Congress can take an important first step on behalf of transparency in politics. The act would require disclosure of donations exceeding $10,000 to "independent" groups that in turn spend the money on political advertising. It would apply equally to corporate and labor union spending.

The DISCLOSE Act has been blocked repeatedly in the Senate, most recently by a Republican-led filibuster in July of 2012. A new version of the legislation is expected to be introduced in 2013.

The DISCLOSE Act is far from perfect, but it's a start at repairing and improving a campaign finance system badly battered by a misguided Supreme Court decision and a $4 billion 2010 election.