Strategy 1 Achieve Equality of Voice and Representation

Campaign Finance Disclosure and Transparency

Strategy 1
Achieve Equality of Voice and Representation

Recommendation 1.6

Pass strong campaign-finance disclosure laws in all fifty states that require full transparency for campaign donations, including from 501(c)(4) organizations and LLCs.

Read in the Report

The Problem

The total cost of the presidential and congressional elections in 2016 has been estimated at $6.3 billion. The price tag itself is not the only problem.

Political money in the United States today is not only big but also dark. Big money is especially harmful to the legitimacy and effectiveness of political institutions when voters do not know where the money is coming from or whose interests it serves.

The Need

Voters have a right to know the identities of those running political ads and shaping campaigns.

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision (Recommendation 1.5), big money is here to stay. But in its decision, the Court did leave one avenue for reform: the use of disclosure laws to make dark money less dark. Disclosure would help deter some big money groups and would reduce the impact of special-interest spending.

In 2009, Congress came close to passing a major disclosure bill that would have helped voters understand who is paying for campaign ads. The bill, which would have become the DISCLOSE Act, passed the House in 2009 and got fifty-nine votes in the Senate, but was killed on a filibuster.

“Anyone can spend their money as they want to, but citizens have a right to know where those funds are coming from so they can make informed decisions. Is there a connection between the source of that funding and the policy positions the candidates are taking? The answer to me is yes, there is a connection and I would like to have the light of day and truth focused on that.”
—Dover-Foxcroft, Maine
“I think how campaign funding works is super unfair. And then, people who want to take the shortcut want to tap into the corporations who then basically buy them and control them to how to write policies, right?  And that is why the policies we  have today are super unjust.”
—St. Paul, Minnesota
“I think it gets back to the money in elections – the idea that you can buy this tremendous influence, and people that can’t participate in democracy that way aren’t listened to – that they don’t have a voice.”
—Lexington, Kentucky

Examples

Recently, states such as Colorado and New Jersey have adopted strong disclosure laws that require transparency around political expenditures.

These laws apply to political spending that passes through LLCs and 501(c)(4) organizations, which function as vehicles for much of the dark money that enters politics today. Some states have even required actual donors’ identities to appear in campaign ads.

Champion

Campaign Legal CenterFaithful Democracy, and Issue One are committed to working to implement this recommendation in order to help reinvent American democracy for the 21st century.

Campaign Legal Center is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to reduce the influence of money in politics and to support unrestricted access to voting. CLC supports strong enforcement of United States campaign finance laws.

Faithful Democracy is a multi-faith coalition of faith-based organizations and congregations who share the moral imperative of fixing our democratic systems. While our partners represent a diversity of beliefs and traditions, we unite around the common goal of creating a healthier, thriving democracy. 

Issue One unites Republicans, Democrats, and independents to fix our broken political system. Our ReFormers Caucus of more than 200 former members of Congress, governors, and Cabinet officials is the largest bipartisan coalition of its kind ever assembled to advocate for an inclusive democracy where all voices are heard.

See the full list of Our Common Purpose Champions.

In order to implement Recommendation 1.6 by 2026, the Commission proposes the following milestones to complete by year-end of:

2021

  • Reintroduce and pass the DISCLOSE Act in Congress as a model for the states to pass disclosure laws for non-federal offices

2023

  • Campaign finance disclosure laws introduced in all states that don’t already have them in place

2026

  • Campaign finance disclosure laws passed in all 50 states