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Sens. Warner & Kaine Introduce Legislation to Protect American Elections from Foreign Interference

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined 42 other Senate Democrats in introducing the DISCLOSE Act of 2017, legislation to improve disclosure of political spending in federal elections.  

Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, outside spending in federal elections has skyrocketed – much of it by corporate and special interests and political groups that are not required under law to disclose their donors. This has also opened up troubling new avenues for foreign adversaries set on gaining advantage over the United States. In particular, shell corporations and tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations make it possible for anonymous donors—whether they be large corporate interests, unknown foreign billionaires, foreign corporations, or even adversarial governments—to buy influence and threaten crushing spending against political foes. 

The DISCLOSE Act would require organizations spending money in elections to disclose their donors. It would also crack down on shell companies by requiring companies spending money in elections to disclose the true owner of the company, so election officials and the public know who is behind the company. Under current law, foreign nationals and foreign corporations are prohibited from engaging in any election spending. However, domestic companies with significant foreign ownership are not subject to the same restrictions. The DISCLOSE Act of 2017 would prohibit domestic corporations with significant foreign control, ownership, or direction from spending money in U.S. elections.

“We need to restore the voice of the American people in the election process. TheCitizens United decision not only unleashed a tidal wave of unlimited and unchecked corporate spending on campaigns – it also created a potential loophole for Russia and other foreign adversaries to meddle in our democratic process. The DISCLOSE Act will help restore transparency to political spending while protecting the integrity of our elections against the threat of foreign money,” said Sen. Warner, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is currently investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"When you consider the fact that foreign powers like Russia are looking for ways to continue meddling in the American electoral system, I believe it is more important than ever to strengthen campaign finance laws so we know the origins of the money in our elections. This bill seeks to increase transparency in the campaign finance system and protect American elections from foreign financial interference. We have to protect the voice of the American people in our democratic processes above all else,” said Sen. Kaine.

Joining Sens. Warner & Kaine in introducing the DISCLOSE Act were Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-Mt), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King Jr. (I-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Edward Markey (D-MA), Corey Booker (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

Sens. Warner and Kaine sponsored earlier versions of the legislation in previous Congresses.

A summary of the new DISCLOSE Act is available here.