Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the “Follow the Money Act” on Tuesday. Wyden has been an adamant campaign finance reformer, pushing for greater disclosure in election spending following the Citizens United decision in 2010. However, similar proposals from previous years, like the “Disclose Act,” failed to garner enough Republican support (including Murkowski’s) to break a filibuster.
“These reforms reflect the belief that where there’s significant campaign spending, everyone has to play by the same rules and that voters deserve to know where the money is coming from and where it’s going.” Wyden said in a press release. “This will bring an end to the most flagrant abuses that have made a mockery of campaign finance and tax law.”
The Follow the Money Act (attached below) would:
- Close loopholes in federal campaign finance law for independent expenditures (like those made by Super PACs and 501(c)4 social welfare organizations)
- Define clear criteria wherein disclosure would be required
- Require mandatory registration with the Federal Elections Commission regarding ‘significant’ election spending
- Require real-time electronic reporting of receipts
- Protect anonymous political giving under $10,000
The bill would NOT:
- Cap the amount any group or organization can spend on communications
- Establish a limit on how much 501(c) groups can dedicate to electioneering before violating their nonprofit status
- Force disclosure for ‘small money’ or individuals contributing less than $1,000 a year
- Allow for disciplinary action against a donor solely due to the fact that the donor made contributions to the registrant
From the announcement, Murkowski elaborated on the bill:
“What you’re seeing in this proposal that is different than you have seen in the Disclose act that was before the Senate last summer and the prior to, is that this is a bill that is designed to be bipartisan. This is a bill that is designed to be even across the board, absolutely transparent in all aspects of it and I think because of how we have designed it, i think you have an opportunity for success with this legislation because of how we have approached the issue itself.”
The major stumbling block for disclosure reform in the world of campaign finance has been sensitivities from free-speech advocates claiming that anonymous political speech should not be infringed at any level. Whether or not the Follow the Money Act will win over legislators like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) or Mitch McConnell (R-KY) remains to be seen.