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Warner & Kaine Cosponsor Bill to Strengthen Campaign Finance Laws & Improve Transparency of Political Spending in Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine cosponsored the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, legislation led by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), to strengthen campaign finance laws, improve transparency around political spending in federal elections, and make government more accountable to the will of voters. Outside group spending in federal elections has skyrocketed since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Many of the biggest spenders, such as certain corporations, special interests, and political groups, are not required under current law to disclose their donors, making it difficult to understand how dark money is influencing elections. The DISCLOSE Act would require organizations and lobbyists spending money in elections to disclose their large donors and certify that they’re not using foreign money for election spending.

“The American public should be able to see who is spending money in federal elections,” said Warner and Kaine. “This bill is an overdue step to improve transparency and accountability, help ensure foreign governments aren’t interfering in U.S. elections, and strengthen our democracy.”

The DISCLOSE Act contains important safeguards against special interest influence. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Prohibit domestic companies with significant foreign control, ownership, or direction from spending money in U.S. elections. Under current law, foreign nationals and foreign corporations are prohibited from engaging in any election spending, but domestic companies with significant foreign ownership are not subject to the same restrictions.
  • Strengthen measures to prevent foreign governments and their agents from interfering in U.S. elections, including in state and local ballot measures.
  • Crack down on the use of shell corporations to hide the identity of donors by requiring companies spending money in elections to disclose their true owners.
  • Require organizations running political ads to include “stand by your ad” disclaimers indicating the top funders that are paying for them.
  • Require groups that spend money on ads supporting or opposing judicial nominees to disclose their donors. The legislation would identify donors who fund advocacy campaigns aimed at confirming their favored nominees. 

Warner and Kaine have cosponsored this legislation in previous Congresses and have long supported efforts to strengthen our democracy, fight political corruption, and protect the right to vote. Earlier this week, Warner reintroduced the Honest Ads Act, legislation that would improve the transparency and accountability of online political advertising. The senators are also strong supporters of the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, legislation negotiated by Kaine to improve access to the ballot for Americans. They have cosponsored the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore safeguards against potential restrictive changes to voting rules.

Full text of the bill is available here.