WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate voted on legislation to shine a light on the dark money poured into the U.S. electoral system, and Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley – who has been a longtime supporter of the DISCLOSE Act and campaign finance reform – reiterated his calls for fair and free elections, and ensuring the Senate Rules allow for meaningful debate on important issues facing our democratic institutions. On Wednesday, Senator Merkley took to the Senate floor to discuss the legislation. You can watch his remarks here.
After the vote, Senator Merkley offered the following reaction: “The essence of the First Amendment is that competing voices should be heard in the marketplace of ideas. Unfortunately, as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the largest corporations and billionaires have been handed a megaphone they can use to drown out the voice of the American people.
“The DISCLOSE Act would make sure Americans know who and what is behind dark money in our campaigns. It is impossible for citizens to evaluate messages they’re hearing if they don’t know who’s bankrolling them, just like an email asking you to send money means something very different if it’s coming from your kid or someone claiming to be a foreign prince. The minority of Senators who are blocking this legislation are allowing special interests to buy our elections and corrupt our democracy. Now, more than ever, is our time to restore our ‘government by, for, and of the people,’ not a ‘government by, for, and of the powerful.’
“Today’s vote adds the DISCLOSE Act to the long list of legislation blocked from being debated and voted on by the abuse of Senate rules commonly called a filibuster, but more accurately described as a minority veto. We don’t have to accept this gridlock and have tools at our fingertips to restore the deliberative nature of the Senate where debate, compromise, and action are encouraged, as the Founders intended. The fight goes on!”
Senator Merkley has been a longtime supporter of the DISCLOSE Act and has worked tirelessly over the years to bring awareness to the legislation and call upon colleagues to put the interests of the American people over those of powerful special interests. In July, he requested and participated in the Senate Rules Committee hearing on the DISCLOSE Act.
“We applaud Sen. Merkley for his vote today in favor of the DISCLOSE Act, important legislation that would expose the dark money interests corrupting our democracy. Sen. Merkley’s leadership has been critical in the fight to protect the freedom to vote and ensure the voices of every American can be heard in the political process,” said Tiffany Muller, President of End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action Fund.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) leads the DISCLOSE Act, as he has done for over a decade. The DISCLOSE Act requires organizations spending money in elections – including super PACs and 501(c)(4) dark money groups – to promptly disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle. In addition to election disclosure requirements, the bill requires groups that spend money on political ads to disclose their large donors as a part of their advertisements.
Special interest influence over elections is a major problem in America. Citizens United and subsequent Supreme Court rulings permit super PACs and certain types of tax-exempt groups, such as 501(c)(4) nonprofits, to spend enormous sums in elections. Many of those groups are not required to disclose their donors, allowing wealthy corporations and individuals to spend unlimited, undisclosed – or “dark” – money without being tied to the television attack ads and other electioneering activity the groups carry out. Since Citizens United, spending by corporations, ultra-rich ideologues, and secretive front groups has exploded. Dark money in particular has skyrocketed, despite the Supreme Court, by an 8 to 1 margin in Citizens United, upholding disclosure requirements as a means for citizens and shareholders to hold elected officials and corporate spenders accountable.