Tester Urges Biden Administration to Reinstate Disclosure Requirements for Political Groups

Senator: “Reinstating this rule is a critical step in preventing special interests and foreign actors from exploiting loopholes at the expense of the American people”

As part of his ongoing effort to clean up dark money in politics, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is calling on the Biden Administration to reinstate disclosure requirements for non-profit groups that engage in political activities.

Tester and a group of his colleagues wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig expressing concern about the Trump Administration’s decision to eliminate longstanding financial reporting requirements for 501(c)(4) groups allows special interests and foreign actors to exploit loopholes and illegally influence our political process. Because of this rule change, 501(c)(4) organizations and other tax-exempt groups that engage in political advocacy are no longer required to disclose donors who make significant financial contributions over $5,000.

“Eliminating the requirement that tax-exempt groups disclose basic information about the source of their contributions undercuts efforts to enforce prohibitions against foreign spending in U.S. elections and detect other illegal activity,” wrote Tester and his colleagues. “It also undermines the ability of the U.S. government to police the wave of “dark money” that has flooded our political system in the decade since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.”

In 2018, the IRS attempted to unilaterally eliminate the reporting requirement. In response, Tester led a bipartisan resolution in the Senate to overturn the rule. Tester’s resolution was not taken up in the House of Representatives, but the rule was eventually struck down by a federal court. Despite that bipartisan Senate vote and federal court ruling, last May the Trump Administration finalized a regulation eliminating the longstanding disclosure requirement, allowing certain tax-exempt groups that engage in political activity to hide the identities of major donors from the IRS.

“Reinstating this rule is a critical step in preventing special interests and foreign actors from exploiting loopholes at the expense of the American people,” Tester concluded. “We strongly urge you to reconsider the prior administration’s decision and reinstate the requirement that certain tax-exempt organizations engaged in political activity disclose information about their major donors to the IRS.”

Tester is a longtime advocate for bringing more accountability and transparency to our campaign finance system. Last month, Tester reintroduced his Spotlight Act to permanently reinstate the IRS disclosure rule. He also reintroduced his SUN Act to require information about donations to politically active non-profit organization be made publically available.

Tester also introduced his Corporations Are Not People Act to overturn the Citizens United decision and is a cosponsor of the For the People Act, a suite of bills aimed at reforming campaign finance and government ethics laws, improving election security, and bolstering voting rights protections, and the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act which would keep foreign actors from participating in American elections, increase transparency for major donors who contribute to electioneering groups, and require disclaimers on political ads, including digital ads, purchased by corporations, unions, and other nonprofit organizations.

Tester’s full letter is available HERE.