Republican Support Grows Against Citizens United and Dark Money

In case you didn’t know, there have been 5 states in 2013 that have passed resolutions calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision. These 5 states are Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Oregon, and West Virginia. This makes a total of 16 states that have passed resolutions so far. That is close to one-third of all 50 states.

Prior to 2013, the state resolution effort was supported primarily by Democratic legislators. That is beginning to change. In the 5 states passing resolutions this year, there was significant Republican support. For example, the majority of Oregon’s Republican House members voted for the resolution.

The support garnered from Republican state lawmakers on this issue is reflective of the support two ballot initiatives received from Republican voters on Election Day 2012. A large majority (73.8%) of voters in Montana passed an initiative calling for an amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. This includes a significant number of Republicans since President Obama received only 42% of the vote in Montana. A similar initiative was passed by 75% of the voters in Colorado. This again shows support from a significant number of Republicans since 51.5% of the voters supported President Obama.

In addition to states passing resolutions, some states have changed campaign finance laws at the state level. Since Citizens United, three states (CT, MD, and NY), have established new disclosure rules for outside spending. In addition, seven states (AZ, CT, FL, IL, MD, MN, and WY) have raised contribution limits to candidates in order to provide more money to offset unlimited independent spending. New York is the only state to establish new disclosure requirements without raising contribution limits for candidates. For more info, click here.

Even in the conservative state of Texas, a disclosure bill passed both houses of the Texas legislature only to be vetoed by Governor Rick Perry. The bill, SB 346, would have required dark-money 501c4 groups that spend more than $25,000 on political expenditures in a calendar year to disclose contributions above $1000.

Republican state Senator Kel Seliger, one of the bill’s sponsors, released the following statement in response to Governor Perry’s veto: “This is a sad day for integrity and transparency in Texas. Governor Perry’s veto of SB 346 legalizes money laundering in Texas elections. The Governor’s veto is ironic since money laundering is illegal in other endeavors. As other states have stepped forward to ban election money laundering by dark money 501c4 non-profit corporations, it is embarrassing that the Lone Star state is now an official safe haven for political money launderers. Again, the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United vs FEC case clearly stated that disclosure of contributions was critical to the right of corporations to participate in our system of democracy.”

At the federal level, a similar bill was introduced by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. This bill, known as the Follow the Money Act, would require all groups that spend at least $10,000 on political expenditures to disclose contributions above $1000. However, this bill goes even further than Texas SB 346.

The Follow the Money Act would also require independent groups to follow “stand by your ad” provisions (including the identification of their top 3 donors). It would require tax-exempt 527 groups to file disclosure reports with the FEC (instead of the IRS) and direct the FEC and IRS to work together to implement and enforce regulations. In addition, it would require the FEC to establish a real-time reporting and disclosure system for all FEC regulated entities. This would reduce the current quarterly or monthly reporting and disclosure to no more than 10 days and, in close proximity to elections, 48 hours. This would allow the public to “follow the money” going into both candidate campaigns and independent spending closer to a real time basis. For more info, click here.

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