Brennan Center Submits Testimony in Support of DISCLOSE Act of 2012, Urges More Election Reforms

March 29, 2012

Contact: Erik Opsal, erik.opsal@nyu.edu, 646-292-8356

In advance of a Senate Rules Committee hearing on the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, the Brennan Center for Justice submitted written testimony supporting the measure, which would bring much-needed transparency to elections.

The Center explained that the Act is the crucial first step toward an election process that is fair, trustworthy, and invites robust participation from the American people, but that it should be coupled with further reform, including small-donor public financing and voter registration modernization.

Read an excerpt from the Brennan Center’s testimony, submitted by Adam Skaggs and Mimi Marziani:

“Since Citizens United v. FEC lifted restrictions on independent spending in U.S. elections, outside parties—including business corporations, unions, wealthy individuals, nonprofits, and Super PACs—have spent astronomical sums on campaign advertisements. Because of numerous loopholes in federal disclosure law, these spenders have essentially been able to choose whether, and when, to publicly reveal the details of their spending, including the source of their funds. As a result, lawmakers, the media, and shareholders of politically-active corporations have been left with incomplete information about this spending. Even worse, American voters have been left in the dark about the individuals and groups spending millions of dollars to influence our votes.

“The Brennan Center commends Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and the dozens of co-sponsors of the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, and urges the Rules Committee to approve the Act without delay. This important legislation would fix three of the most serious flaws in our porous federal disclosure scheme. Specifically, the Act would:

(1)    expand current reporting requirements to capture any outside person or organization that spends substantial amounts of money on campaign advertising, either directly or by transferring money to another;

(2)    accelerate the timetable for reporting such spending; and

(3)    enhance current disclaimer requirements to provide more information on the face of campaign advertisements.

“Each of these provisions would address specific—and serious—problems that currently plague our elections process. They would safeguard the integrity of our elections and shore up public confidence in our democracy.”

The Brennan Center’s testimony also urged several additional “fixes” to repair the damage wrought by Citizens United.

First, the Rules Committee should amend the Senate version of the Act to require unions and corporations engaged in political spending to disclose that spending to their members or shareholders, as the House version requires. Second, in order to fundamentally address the role of money in politics, Congress must embrace public funding for congressional elections, using New York City’s successful small donor system as a model. Finally, the Center urges the Committee to modernize our voter registration system, as the Brennan Center has proposed, which would add as many as 65 million eligible Americans to the rolls while curbing potential for fraud and abuse.

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To speak to the Center’s money in politics experts, please contact Erik Opsal at erik.opsal@nyu.edu or 646-292-8356.