There’s no question that our democracy is in desperate need of transparency. Super PACs often take the heat for being secret campaign slush funds, but in 2010, nonprofits outspent super PACs three to two. And 90 percent of that money – almost $84 million – came from groups that never disclose their donors. So far in 2012, these groups have accounted for two-thirds of all political advertising purchased by outside groups.
But the veil of secrecy shrouding our elections could be lifted by Congress – if it musters the willpower. The Senate is about to vote on a crucial piece of legislation called the DISCLOSE Act, which would go a long way toward lifting the veil of secrecy shrouding our elections. It would require all super PAC, nonprofits, corporations, labor organizations and trade associations that spend more than $10,000 or more on campaign-related advertisements to report the source of their funding to the Federal Election Commission. The FEC would then be required to post the disclosure reports online within 24 hours.
Super PACs already are subject to some disclosure requirements, but corporations, nonprofits and trade associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are not required to report their donors. That’s not to say that super PACs haven’t been playing the secrecy game. The DISCLOSE Act will crack down on a handy loophole super PACs have been exploiting to keep their donors hidden: the use of 501(c)4s, or “social welfare” nonprofit organizations.
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