Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer:
In a democracy, citizens are entitled to basic facts that help them make informed voting decisions. Right now, however, facts about who is funding campaigns and advocacy are hidden by outdated laws allowing large donors to remain anonymous, even as they exert significant influence on elections and public policy.
In light of that, we the undersigned request that you immediately schedule votes on the DISCLOSE Act, which would compel dark money groups to disclose their major donors. This legislation already has the official support of 50 U.S. Senators. It is time for Congress to pass it.
In recent weeks, reporting by The Lever, ProPublica and The New York Times uncovered the largest known political advocacy donation in our country’s history — a $1.6 billion gift to a dark money group run by a powerful conservative legal activist. The donation would have remained anonymous had there not been a leak of documents.
While such leaks serve the public interest in bringing more transparency, Americans cannot — and should not have to — rely on occasional whistleblowers to learn who is influencing our democracy, especially as more and more money in politics is now anonymous. Indeed, in the 2020 election cycle, more than $1 billion of dark money was spent, and now in the 2022 election, both parties’ House and Senate super PACs are being funded in part by anonymous dark money groups.
Americans are entitled to know who is buying influence over the political process — but pervasive secrecy is depriving voters of that critical information. That is why we need Congress to pass new disclosure laws as soon as possible.
Fifty years ago, the country was reminded of the vital role of the Fourth Estate when news outlets followed the money and uncovered the Watergate scheme, which was the original dark money scandal of the modern era. Those revelations birthed the original campaign finance disclosure laws, so that all Americans could see who funds their representatives.
A half century later, those laws are being routinely circumvented and desperately need to be updated. Congress must act right now.