Exposing Dark Money

In Pennsylvania, political candidates and PACs that receive contributions or spend money are required to file periodic financial disclosure reports, with the state and/or the county election board. The good news is that thanks to Common Cause Pennsylvania's aggressive lobbying efforts, such data are publicly available. However, the lack of enforcement, and a difficult to use Bureau of Elections database limits the potential usefulness of the information.

The Citizens United decision seriously damaged the disclosure process, because by allowing non-profit corporations, whose donors' identities are protected from disclosure, to do "independent" campaign advertising, large donors and for-profit corporations can launder their political work through non-profits.

Under Citizens United corporations now can spend unlimited amounts of money from their corporate treasuries to influence the outcomes of elections -- without the approval of shareholders or even detailed disclosure to their shareholders. Unleashing the largesse of corporate wealth and allowing it to be clandestinely used to influence the outcome of elections is travesty for our elections, citizens, and stockholders alike.

Improving requirements for disclosure of contributions and expenses are important facets of returning power to the electorate. To remedy the disclosure problem Common Cause/PA is working to require:

  • All campaign finance reports for state-level offices be filed electronically to ensure the public gets accurate information in a timely manner
  • Campaign finance records be made available to the public in an easy-to-use fully- searchable database, at little or no cost
  • Increased frequency of disclosure reports
  • Full disclosure of "Independent expenditures"
  • Corporations to fully disclose their political expenditures
  • Corporations to get shareholder approval for political expenditures
  • All disclosure forms be reviewed for completeness, and that there be auditing of a substantial percentage of reports filed
  • Proper funding of an independent enforcement agency to guarantee the complete and effective collection and review of reports, and dissemination of information to the public.

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