RELEASE: Risky Secret and Illegal Foreign Spending in U.S. Elections Destabilize American Democracy; Congress Can Respond With New DISCLOSE Act

Washington, D.C. — In the midst of what seems like never-ending daily news around the Trump administration’s conflicts of interest, today the Center for American Progress published a new brief urging Congress to combat secret and foreign spending in U.S. elections by enacting an enhanced DISCLOSE Act, which is expected to be re-introduced this week by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“Today, as trust in government nears an all-time low, it is time for Congress to fix the loopholes that allow improper political influence to be gained through secret and potentially foreign political spending in U.S. elections,” said Alex Tausanovitch, associate director of Democracy and Government Reform at CAP and co-author of the brief. “The DISCLOSE Act contains commonsense, court-approved provisions and represents a major advance in the fight against secret and foreign spending and special interest influence.”

As the brief explains, it has been nearly a decade since Congress took any significant action to address the problems in the U.S. campaign finance system, and loopholes within the system expanded to a point where hidden spending by big donors is now an ordinary part of American politics, and spending by foreign citizens—even foreign governments—is a latent threat to U.S. elections.

“American voters have a right to know who is spending money to sway their votes, but right now voters often don’t know the true source of the money used to fund election campaigns,” said Liz Kennedy, director of Democracy and Government Reform at CAP and co-author of the brief. “At a moment when hostile foreign powers are acting to subvert our political integrity, it would be irresponsible not to act to close off the huge loopholes that could allow secret foreign political spending to impact our elections. Transparency is necessary for informed self-governance and to enforce the laws that exist to fight the corruption of big money in politics.”

The upcoming DISCLOSE act of 2017 would address many of the current problems by:

  • Restoring donor disclosure
  • Expanding the window for reporting communications that identify a federal candidate
  • Prohibiting the use of shell organizations to hide a donor’s identity
  • Strengthening the ban on foreign collection spending, particularly through domestic corporations

Click here to read the full brief.

For more information or to speak with an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202-741-6258.