The DISCLOSE Act of 2014: What You Need to Know

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Senate Democrats earlier this month reintroduced the DISCLOSE Act of 2014, a bill they say will crack down on what’s known as “dark money” by requiring organizations that spend money to influence elections to disclose their spending, as well as their major sources of funding in a timely manner.

Here’s are a few things you need to know:

WHEN? The legislation was introduced June 24.

WHO? The legislation was introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island. It was cosponsored by 50 of his colleagues, including: Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Al Franken (D-MN), and Angus King (I-ME).

WHAT is the legislation all about? Here’s what Whitehouse had to say in a release his office issued after the DISCLOSE Act was introduced earlier this month:

Since the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, a torrent of dark money has swept through our political system, giving corporations and billionaires the ability to secretly buy election influence.  The DISCLOSE Act will require political groups to list publicly their big donors, so voters can at least know who is trying to sway their opinions.

 

Our Republican colleagues have a history of supporting disclosure of election spending, and this bill will give them a chance to show the American people where they stand: with the individual voters they were sent here to represent, or with the billionaires and the corporations seeking to buy our democracy.

In the release, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy added:

“We know disclosure laws can work because they do work for individual Americans donating directly to political campaigns.  When an individual gives money directly to a political candidate, that donation is not hidden.  It is publicly disclosed.

 

By passing the DISCLOSE Act, we can restore transparency and accountability to campaign finance laws by ensuring that all Americans know who is paying for campaign ads.”

HOW big of an issue is so-called “dark money?” Whitehouse says it’s a serious problem, and cites statistics from the the Center for Responsive Politics, which reports that election spending from undisclosed sources in the 2012 election cycle topped $310 million—an increase from just $69 million in 2008, the last presidential election cycle before the Citizens United decision. 

WHY will the DISCLOSE Act help? The DISCLOSE Act requires any covered organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours, detailing the amount and nature of each expenditure of more than $1,000, as well as the names of all of its donors who gave $10,000 or more.  Also in the bill: Transfer provisions prevent donors from using shell organizations to hide their activities, according to Whitehouse’s release.

DISCLOSE Act In the News…

The reintroduction of the DISCLOSE Act garnered much press. Click on the headlines below to get more details:

What are your thoughts? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below.

 

 

 

3 Voting-Related News Items You Need to Read

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In Pennsylvania, it is easy to think the fight for fair elections was won when a judge recently struck down the Keystone State’s voter ID law, saying it was unconstitutional.

But then there are access issues. And issues related to expanded voting hours, no-excuses absentee ballots, antiquated voting machines and more.

Bottom line: It’s just as important to stay educated on voting reform issues now as it was before the voter ID law was spiked.

That said, here are five voting-related news items you need to know about:

1. Politico is reporting that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is proposing a plan that would expand voting rights for some nonviolent ex-cons.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“I believe in these issues. But I’m a politician, and we want more votes,” (Paul) conceded in an interview. “Even if Republicans don’t get more votes, we feel like we’ve done the right thing.”

Nearly 8 percent of the black population currently cannot vote, compared with 1.8 percent of the non-black population, according to The Sentencing Project. And incarcerations for nonviolent offenses that lead to a loss of voting rights fall more heavily on African-Americans and Latinos than whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

To read the full story, click here.

2. You’ve heard of Rock the Vote, right? The organization launched in 1992 that aims to engage young people in the political process? Well, the organization has undergone a relaunch of sorts. Its new goal? To register 1.5 million voters prior to the 2014 midterm election. The organization also debuted a newly designed website.

The whole story from Rolling Stone can be viewed by clicking here.

3. By this point, you’ve likely heard about legislation introduced last year to amend the Voting Rights Act – one that has been languishing since.

Aljazeera America reports:

In January, (legislators) sponsored a bill that created a new coverage formula for which states would have to submit future voting law changes to the federal government for pre-approval. Under the new criteria, if a state has more than five violations of federal law pertaining to voting rights in the past 15 years, it would have to obtain clearance from the Justice Department to implement new ordinances.

But as the November elections rapidly approach, the House Judiciary Committee has not moved to schedule a hearing or a markup on the legislation, to the dismay of voting rights groups that have been pushing for Section 4 to be reinstated.