Tester, Wyden Reintroduce Spotlight Act to Shine a Light on Dark Money in Politics

Bill Would Hold Trump Administration Accountable, Require Disclosure of Dark Money Donors

(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and U.S. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today reintroduced the Spotlight Act, a bill to shine a light on dark money political donors and hold the Trump Administration accountable to enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws.

“Last summer, the Treasury Department made one of the swampiest decisions I’ve ever seen and repealed a rule requiring dark money groups to disclose information about their donors,” Tester said. “That means federal regulators don’t even know who’s bankrolling these shadowy organizations-let alone the public. How can we defend our democracy if we don’t know who’s trying to influence our elections? How can we expose special interests while their donors remain hidden? That’s why we need the Spotlight Act.”

“The Trump Administration’s pro-dark money rule allows foreign powers and special interests to spread their influence even deeper into our democracy, so it’s got to go before the next election,” Wyden said. “In the closing days of the last Congress, the Senate passed a resolution on a bipartisan basis to overturn this corrupt dark money rule, but it came to a screeching halt in the Republican-controlled House. This time around, I hope more Senate Republicans will support this pro-sunshine legislation tossing out the dark money rule and dare Donald Trump to side with powerful insiders and foreign meddlers over American voters.”

The Senators first introduced the Spotlight Act back in July after the Treasury Department announced that it would no longer require non-profit organizations engaged in political activity to disclose basic information about their donors. Under current law, 501(c)(3) organizations are required to provide donor information to the IRS, but the Treasury Secretary has discretion over whether to require this information from other types of tax-exempt organizations. The Spotlight Act would eliminate that discretion and legally require 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6) organizations to provide the IRS with the names and basic information of donors who contribute more than $5,000.

Congressman David Price (D-N.C.), Vice Chair of the House Democracy Reform Task Force, is introducing an identical bill in the House of Representatives today.

“At a time when our elections are plagued by unlimited corporate spending, anonymous donors, and illegal foreign meddling, the Trump administration’s decision to obscure millions in dark campaign money weakens our already failing campaign finance system and diminishes the power of voters,” Price said. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation alongside Senator Tester and Senator Wyden to hold political groups accountable and shine a light on dark money in our elections.”

The legislation is endorsed by non-partisan campaign finance reform organizations End Citizens United, Common Cause, and Democracy 21.

“The IRS’s decision to give mega-donors and Big Money special interests more secrecy with their political spending goes against what the majority of Americans want. Voters deserve to know who’s behind the seemingly unlimited money that’s trying to influence their vote and their government,” said End Citizens United Action Fund President Tiffany Muller. “ECU thanks Senators Tester and Wyden for their leadership, and Congress should pass this legislation immediately. It would shine a much-needed light on political nonprofits that spend hundreds of millions of dollars every election cycle in the shadows.”

In addition to the Spotlight Act, Tester and Wyden introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to reverse the Treasury Department’s decision in September. The resolution-which was co-sponsored by 41 other senators-passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis back in December, but was never taken up for a vote in the House.

A copy of the Spotlight Act is available HERE.