Senator Carper: We Need to Fix Our Broken Campaign Finance System

WASHINGTON- Yesterday, on the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, Senator Carper cosponsored two pieces of legislation that would help restore Americans’ faith in our country’s campaign finance laws. The senator again cosponsored a constitutional amendment introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) to allow Congress to enact common sense finance legislation. Sen. Carper is also a cosponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, legislation introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) yesterday, that would crack down on so-called “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.

“Every American deserves to have an equal voice at the ballot box, regardless of the size of their bank account,” Sen. Carper said. “Every American also deserves to know who is funding the campaigns of candidates seeking elected office. Five years ago, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision upended decades’ worth of campaign  finance laws, allowing a few wealthy individuals to wield disproportionate influence over the electoral process in secret. In the 2014 election cycle alone, a record-breaking amount—nearly $4 billion—was spent on campaigns across the country. It’s another reminder that Congress needs to take immediate action to restore some sanity to our broken campaign finance system. Today, I’m once again proud to join the efforts being led by my friends and colleagues, Senators Tom Udall and Sheldon Whitehouse, to shine much-needed light on political spending and to restore the long-understood ability of Congress to enact common sense campaign finance legislation.”

The proposed constitutional amendment would:

  • Restores authority to the American people, through Congress and the states, to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns;
  • Allows states to regulate campaign spending at their level;
  • Give Congress the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, like those from Super PACs;
  • Not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead would allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges; and
  • Expressly provide that any regulation authorized under the amendment cannot limit the freedom of the press.

Since Citizens United, we have seen a dramatic rise in political spending by so-called “independent” groups with no disclosure requirements.  In the 2014 elections, the Washington Post reported that at least 31 percent of all independent spending was spent by groups that are not required to disclose their donors.  And that doesn’t even count spending on so-called “issue ads,” which is not reported.

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 over $1,000 and the names of all of its donors who gave $10,000 or more.  Transfer provisions in the bill prevent donors from using shell organizations to hide their activities.