Merkley, Senate Colleagues Announce New Legislation to Shine Light on Anonymous Super PAC Spending

Washington, DC – Today, as the public continues to see the harmful effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision firsthand with the explosion of shadowy Super PAC spending in the Republican primaries, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley joined with a group of 32 Senators to announce new legislation to address the worst of the problems caused by the decision.  The DISCLOSE Act of 2012 will help put an end to secretive campaign spending by strengthening disclosure laws.  

The legislation was led by the Citizens United Task Force, which includes Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Al Franken (D-MN), in addition to Senator Merkley.  Other cosponsors include Rules Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT). 

Citizens United unleashed a wave of corporate campaign cash that threatens to drown out the voice of the people,” said Merkley.  “This is a serious threat to our democracy and we cannot stand by while it happens.  This legislation puts into place a very simple principle: the American people deserve to know where the money comes from.  Transparency should not be a partisan issue and neither should this bill.  I urge all my colleagues to stand together and say that secret donations are over.”

The Act requires any covered organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours, detailing the amount and nature of each expenditure over $1,000 and the names of all of its donors who gave $10,000 or more.  Transfer provisions in the bill prevent donors from using shell organizations to hide their activities. 

To make sure that organizations and individuals take responsibility for their negative or misleading political advertising, the legislation also includes “stand-by-your-ad” disclaimer requirements that require any organization that puts a political ad on TV or radio to list its top funders in the ads.  The head of the organization also must appear in the ad and state that he or she approves the message, just as candidates must do now. 

The other cosponsors of the legislation are Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Carl Levin (D-MI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jim Webb (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).