Tester introduces bill to expose dark money groups
Senators bill will shine light on secret political donors
(U.S. Senate) - Senator Jon Tester, a leader for greater transparency in government, today introduced legislation to finally reveal the major donors who fund secret organizations that try to tell Americans how to vote.
Tester's bill will make public the form, called ‘Schedule B,' that list donors to independent political organizations that claim tax-exempt status and that engage in electioneering. The U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision allowed these groups to raise and spend tens of millions of dollars without voters knowing who is filling their coffers or why.
Tester's bill will make public donors who give more than $5,000 to tax-exempt groups that engage in election activities.
"We need to get big money out of elections, but until we do, the American people deserve to know who is paying for the ads on their TVs," Tester said. "When a candidate runs an ad, folks know who donated to their campaigns. Voters deserve to know who is behind these outside groups, too. Transparency is not a political issue. My bill will make our elections more transparent and empower all Americans."
Tester is also concerned that some non-profit groups exploit America's tax code by claiming to be tax-exempt, social welfare organizations when instead they spend a significant amount time conducting political activity. His bill will make non-profit groups' ‘990' financial information forms more accessible by requiring the IRS to place them online in a searchable format. It is currently costly and time-consuming for journalists and the public to access these documents.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the 2014 mid-term elections were the most expensive mid-terms in history and included the first Senate race to top $100 million in total spending. Additionally, spending by groups that do not disclose all of their donors jumped from $161 million to at least $219 million.
Tester recently spoke on the Senate floor about the dangers of large amounts of unaccountable money being used to influence elections. He said it "leaves constituents without a real say in who represents them." He also spoke at Harvard University earlier this month about money's influence in politics.
Tester in September supported a Constitutional Amendment to give Congress and the states the authority to regulate elections - that measure failed to overcome a Senate filibuster. He also is pushing his own amendment that says ‘corporations are not people' and recently launched a social media campaign to build support.
Earlier this year, Tester was named the most transparent U.S. Senator by the government watchdog service GovTrack.us. The widely read online watchdog based its ranking on Tester's support for all eight of the bills it uses to measure lawmakers' dedication to government transparency.