Bipartisan Bill Introduced Would Increase Transparency and Accountability of Political Spending

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WASHINGTON –  U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), three of the co-chairs of the Congressional Reformers Caucus, introduced a bipartisan bill to increase disclosure and accountability of political spending. Campaign Legal Center (CLC) advised the House offices on language for the bill.

The Political Accountability and Transparency Act, H.R. 7267, would strengthen rules governing coordination between super PACs and individual campaigns to ensure that super PACs truly operate independently from candidates, would require political advertisements to disclose the top donors to the organization paying for the advertisements, and would apply the “personal use” restriction on campaign funds to all political committees, including leadership PACs.

“Strengthening the law requiring independence of candidates from outside groups is critical to loosening the influence that megadonors who fund super PACs hold over candidates and officeholders,” said Trevor Potter, President of the Campaign Legal Center, and a former Republican Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “Similarly, increasing political spending transparency and stopping politicians from using leadership PACs as slush funds are broadly popular bipartisan reforms. Voters have a right to know who is bankrolling campaign ads. And it would seem obvious that lawmakers shouldn’t be using donors’ PAC money to fund golf memberships, trips to five-star resorts, and Disney World vacations.”

“For too long, we’ve allowed outside money to play an outsized and arcane role in our politics, blurring the lines between special interest groups and the candidates they support,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice. “The Political Accountability and Transparency Act will close some of the most gaping loopholes in our campaign finance laws by increasing restrictions and reporting requirements for outside groups. This bipartisan bill will help finally restore integrity and trust in our nation’s political process.”  

“The American people deserve to know who is spending hundreds of millions of dollars every election cycle to influence their vote and muddy our politics,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher. “This bipartisan bill is critical to injecting more transparency into our campaign finance system and helping reduce the corrosive influence of dark money in our elections. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important piece of legislation.” “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer. “Americans deserve to know who is paying for the political ads they see regardless of how those ads are purchased. The Political Accountability and Transparency Act slams shut campaign finance loopholes and shines a light on the murky world of dark money.”

“The Political Accountability and Transparency Act addresses some of the most obvious flaws in federal campaign law that repeatedly frustrate members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. We are pleased to see these leaders of the bipartisan Congressional Reformers Caucus put forward solutions to help fix America’s broken political system,” said Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee.

“The Political Accountability and Transparency Act represents a much-needed step toward strengthening a culture of transparency and accountability in our politics. Stand Up Republic is proud to support this bipartisan initiative,” said Greg Spenchian, Director of Policy and Partnerships for Stand Up Republic.

H.R. 7267 tightens coordination rules between super PACs and individual campaigns in several ways. For one, the bill would apply to the coordination that happens before a candidate is officially running for office if the spending happens after the candidate is running for office. The bill would also apply broadly to any ads paid for by a super PAC that promote, attack, support, or oppose a candidate. Further, H.R. 7267 would apply to any communications that mention a candidate starting 120 days before a primary and going through the general election, and it explicitly covers all types of activity in addition to mass-broadcast communications, including mail and canvassing literature. This bill also strengthens the restriction on staff moving from a campaign or official office to an outside spender and, in the case that it does happen, requires a robust firewall.

Another goal of H.R. 7267 is to provide voters with additional information about who pays for political advertisements. The bill would require television, radio, and internet advertisements to display, within the advertisement itself, the three largest donors to the organization paying for the advertisement. This would apply to super PACs, 501(c) nonprofits, and other corporate entities.

Finally, H.R. 7267 aims to limit the widespread abuse of leadership PAC funds by members of Congress. In a July 2018 report, CLC and Issue One revealed that these PACs have increasingly used those funds for five-star dinners, high-end vacations, and country club memberships.