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Various witnesses and senators today called for a plethora of solutions to bring us closer to those goals, including: 1) legislation introduced by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, that would mandate 48-hour disclosure of significant campaign contributions and expenditures; 2) a ban or restrictions on “joint fundraising committees,” which as evidenced by the Republican Victory Fund, are likely to become the preferred fundraising vehicle for major donors under McCutcheon; 3) a Securities and Exchange Commission rule, in response to the 750,000 investors and members of the public who have called for mandated disclosure of corporate political spending by publicly held companies; 4) an IRS rule that would provide “bright lines” definitions of political intervention by nonprofit organizations and enforce the current law prohibiting 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations from making more than de minimis political expenditures; and finally 5) a constitutional amendment, ratified by Congress, that clarifies for the Supreme Court what the First Amendment really means. The biggest news of all at the hearing was a surprise and welcomed announcement by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., that the Senate will proceed with an upcoming vote on such an amendment.
American democracy is at dire risk in today’s byzantine system of unregulated and undisclosed money in politics. It is up to our members of Congress and regulators to take the next step on the heels of today’s hearing to bring it into the modern era.
Lisa Gilbert is the director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.