DISCLOSE 2013 Act

January 3, 2013

The DISCLOSE Act of 2013 aims to provide greater disclosure of outside spending unleashed by the Citizens United decision. In the words of Justice Kennedy, disclosure “provides shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.” It also “enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

Currently, federal disclosure laws capture spending on ads that expressly advocate for the election of defeat of a candidate (“Vote for Jones” or “Defeat Smith”).  As to ads that avoid express advocacy, including “sham issue ads” (“Call Smith and tell her to stop raising taxes”), federal law only requires disclosure if the ads run in the 30 days before a primary or the 60 days before a general election. As a result, outside groups can avoid disclosure laws by airing such ads outside these narrow windows.  The result is that millions of dollars spent on ads clearly intended to influence voters’ decisions at the ballot box are undisclosed, leaving the voting public in the dark. The DISCLOSE Act would expand the disclosure window for these sorts of advertisements to cover the entire election season.

The legislation would require political non-profits spending more than $10,000 on campaign-related disbursements to disclose the names of donors who contribute an aggregate amount of $1,000 or more. It also requires the sponsoring organization’s largest donors to be disclosed in advertisements.

Legislative History