Kicking off #SunshineWeek, Tester Takes Three Big Steps to Increase Transparency in Campaigns & Elections
Senator takes aim at Citizens United with new Constitutional Amendment, reintroduces the SUN Act, and calls for more accountability in online political advertising
(U.S. Senate) – Kicking off #SunshineWeek with a bang, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is taking three big steps to shine a light on dark money in politics and limit its role in U.S. elections. Today, Tester reintroduced his Sunlight for Unaccountable Non-Profits (SUN) Act, called for more transparency in online political advertising, and took aim at the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision by proposing a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the infamous 2010 ruling.
“A good government is a transparent government,” Tester said. “That’s why we need initiatives like Sunshine Week, because bringing more accountability and transparency to Washington is the only way to ensure our democracy works for everyone.”
“Corporations Aren’t People” Constitutional Amendment
Today, Tester proposed a Constitutional Amendment to stop the flow of dark money into U.S. elections. In its now infamous Citizens United (2010) decision, the Supreme Court declared that when it comes to free speech, corporations are people. This decision paved the way for unlimited and virtually unregulated spending by corporations in our elections. Tester’s Constitutional Amendment states what should be obvious: Corporations aren’t people and they should not be able to spend unlimited amounts of money trying to influence America’s elections.
“Senator Tester is building on Montana’s proud tradition of supporting good government, fair elections, and keeping Big Money out of our elections,” said Tiffany Muller, President of the End Citizens United Action Fund. “These bills would keep the public informed by shining a light on secretive ‘dark money’ groups, and it strikes at the heart of the Citizens United decision by declaring that corporations are not people. We thank Senator Tester for standing up for Montanans against corporate special interests and we’ll fight vigorously in support of these reforms.”
Sunlight for Unaccountable Non-Profits (SUN) Act
Tester also reintroduced the Sunlight for Unaccountable Non-Profits (SUN) Act. This bill requires information about major donors to tax-exempt organizations that engage in political activity be publicly available. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 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. That’s why Tester’s bill requires the IRS to publish the names of any donors who give more than $5,000 to tax-exempt political groups.
“The SUN Act will help bring political spending out of the shadows, and create some much-needed transparency for those seeking to influence our politics,” said John Wonderlich, Executive Director of the Sunlight Foundation. “We want to thank Senator Tester for his steadfast commitment to shining a light on our elections.”
Letter to the FEC Re: Online Political Ad Disclaimers
Finally, Tester is pushing the country’s main election watchdog to shine a light on digital advertising. Last week, he sent a letter to Federal Election Commission (FEC) Chairwoman Ellen L. Weintraub demanding the agency require disclaimers identifying the source of funding for online political ads. These disclaimers are currently required on television and newspaper ads, but not on social media platforms.
“Online political advertising is like the Wild West and voters are being disenfranchised because of it,” Tester wrote. “Americans deserve to know who is paying for online advertisements placed to influence their vote, regardless of whether those advertisements run on the radio, television, or online.”
Launched in 2005, #SunshineWeek is an annual initiative to promote government transparency and accountability by shining a light on our democracy and increasing access to public information. Tester, who has long championed these principles, received the American Library Association’s 2017 James Madison Award during Sunshine Week in 2017 for his work to increase access, accountability, and transparency across the federal government.
He is the founder and Chairman of the Senate Transparency Caucus and was the first Senator to publish his daily schedule online-something he still does to this day. He has voted to end automatic pay raises for members of Congress and has long supported ending the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street.
He recently reintroduced the Spotlight Act, a bill to shine a light on dark money political donors and hold the Trump Administration accountable to enforce the nation’s campaign finance laws. And in September of 2018, Tester’s bill requiring Senate candidates to electronically file their campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission was signed into law.
More on Tester’s efforts to shine a light on dark money is available HERE.