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Delaware Elections Disclosure Act

The Delaware Elections Disclosure Act ensures greater disclosure of outside spending in Delaware’s elections.

Published: August 15, 2012

On August 15, 2012, Delaware Governor Jack Marck­ell signed into law one of the strongest state elec­tion disclos­ure stat­utes in the coun­try, a decis­ive response to outside spend­ing unleashed by the Citizens United decision.

The Delaware Elec­tions Disclos­ure Act correc­ted a loop­hole all too common in state disclos­ure schemes that allows outside groups to evade disclos­ure require­ments by refrain­ing from expressly advoc­at­ing the elec­tion or defeat of a candid­ate (“Vote for Jones” or “Defeat Smith”). By airing “sham issue ads” (“Call Smith and tell her to stop rais­ing taxes”), groups could leave the voting public in the dark. The new law applies disclos­ure require­ments to any outside group that airs an ad that mentions a candid­ate in the 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general elec­tion.

The law also includes an innov­at­ive disclaimer provi­sion, requir­ing ads to include a weblink to the spon­sor­ing organ­iz­a­tion’s campaign finance reports so that voters can easily determ­ine what interests are behind campaign messages.

In the words of Justice Kennedy, these types of reforms “provide 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.”

Legis­lat­ive History

Bren­nan Center Resources