Press Releases

Feinstein: Stop Secret Corporate Spending on Political Ads

DISCLOSE Act will address Supreme Court’s unwise Citizens United decision

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke at a Rules Committee hearing on the harmful effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  The committee considered the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, co-sponsored by Senator Feinstein, which will help end secret campaign spending by strengthening disclosure and disclaimer requirements.

“I believe the Roberts Court’s decision in Citizens United was the wrong one,” said Senator Feinstein.  “It protects corporate free speech but drowns out an individual’s free speech. It has threatened to put democratic elections in the United States up for sale to the highest bidder. And it will lead to voters having less reliable information about candidates--not more.

“This decision does not only impact one group of people or one area of the law--it affects the very functioning of our elections and the democracy of more than 300 million Americans.  The DISCLOSE Act of 2012 is a critical step to ensure that corporate dollars will not flow in the dark to one candidate and against another but, instead, our election process will regain the transparency it has lost since Citizens United.” 

The bill requires any covered organization that spends $10,000 or more on a campaign-related disbursement to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours of the expenditure. The report must include the amount and nature of each expenditure over $1,000 and the names of all donors who gave $10,000 or more. Transfer provisions in the bill prevent donors from using shell organizations to hide their activities.

To make sure that organizations and individuals take responsibility for their negative or misleading political advertising, the legislation also includes “stand-by-your-ad” disclaimer requirements that require any organization that puts a political ad on television or radio to list its top donors in the ads. The head of the organization must also appear in the ad and affirmatively state that he or she approves the message, just as candidates must do now.

Feinstein added: “The Court’s decision in this case opened the door to unlimited corporate spending in federal elections. Let me repeat: unlimited spending.

“What does this mean in the real world?

“This means that an oil company like ExxonMobil—a company that earned $45 billion in profits last year—could spend unlimited money to support a candidate who supports more drilling, or to defeat a candidate who opposes more oil drilling.

“Or large banks like Bank of America would be free to use their corporate treasury to attack candidates who favor financial regulation and consumer protection.   

“Is this what we want?

“Congress should pass the DISCLOSE Act to reduce the harmful effects of Citizens United.  I supported the DISCLOSE Act in the last Congress because I believe it is a critical step forward, but the bill was blocked by a filibuster. Given what we have seen in the Republican primaries this year, I think this body must try again to pass the DISCLOSE Act.”