In its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court opened the flood gates for corporations to use shareholders’ dollars for limitless political expenditures.
At the same time, the ruling has effectively blindfolded and muzzled the American voter, further obscuring the source and motivations behind the political messages we see on TV and hear on the radio. These sorts of disingenuous and misleading advertisements are likely to proliferate as the November elections draw near.
Even without the Citizens United ruling, voters have been more or less in the dark about the resources behind so-called “grassroots” groups that put their names on campaign commercials. In previous elections, shadow organizations have spent millions of dollars on TV ads “paid for” by groups with patriotic-sounding names – while providing viewers with no information who was funding them.
To combat this deception of the American people, this week, the House will vote on the DISCLOSE Act, which aims to close some of the biggest election loopholes created by the recent court decision and ensure that the voices of the American people aren’t overwhelmed by corporations in our elections.
The most far-reaching campaign finance reform law since McCain-Feingold, the DISCLOSE act does more to strengthen disclosure and transparency than any measure in recent history. It makes critical strides in campaign transparency and empowers voters by ensuring they have access to the information they need to make responsible decisions.
Today, foreign companies such as BP are funneling millions of dollars into a front group called “Americans for Clean Oceans,” which advertises against members of Congress – Republican or Democratic – trying to hold the company responsible for the greatest ecological disaster in our nation’s history accountable. The DISCLOSE act will mitigate this practice by:
• Stopping manipulation of elections by fly-by-night “hit” groups funded by U.S. based foreign corporations such as BP, special interests, and billionaire CEOs;
• Exposing Wall Street, Big Oil, insurance companies and other special interest groups, who are behind last minute attack and sham ads – by requiring corporate CEOs to stand by their ads just like candidates;
• Giving shareholders, organization members, and the public the right to know about corporate and interest group campaign expenditures;
• Preventing U.S. corporations controlled by foreign – or even hostile – governments from pumping secret money into our elections;
• Preventing large government contractors and TARP recipients from making political expenditures.
Voters deserve to know that, for example, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is underwritten by the coal industry, and that Citizens for Better Medicare is underwritten by drug companies. Without the enactment of the DISCLOSE act or similar transparency requirements, America may see a dramatic change in the character and legitimacy of our democratic system. Congress cannot and should not let that happen.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.