Congress Needs Clearer Guidelines to Protect Against Appearing to Favor Political Donors


In this Age of Super PACs and Dark-Money Groups, Congressional Ethics Committees Should Improve Guidance to Help Restore the Public’s Trust in Washington

WASHINGTON – The Campaign Legal Center today urged the Senate and House Ethics Committees to issue new, more detailed guidance for members of Congress to limit the appearance of special treatment or legislative favors for political donors in a post-Citizens United era.

“Stronger, clearer guidance is an important step in restoring the public’s faith that every American – not just those with enough money to buy access and influence – has a fair chance to be heard on our nation’s policies and laws,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center. “The current rules are vague and outdated.  Since the Congressional Ethics Committees last looked at the links between political solicitations and legislative actions, the magnitude of money involved in elections has increased by leaps and bounds.  New guidance should provide U.S. representatives and senators with the information they need to help ensure they do not violate the rules, while allowing the public to hold them accountable when they do.”

In the last six years, there have been major changes to our campaign finance laws, including the emergence of Super PACs,  especially the growing number of candidate-connected Super PACs – PACs that are ostensibly independent but have close ties to candidates and are perceived by the public as an affiliated arm of the candidates; a new Federal Election Commission rule allowing candidates (including U.S. senators and representatives) to solicit funds for Super PACs in private meetings; and the rise of 501(c)(4) dark-money groups  that can now spend unlimited funds to influence the outcome of elections.

The CLC letter to the committees explains the urgent need for improved guidance in this area and offers suggestions for how the committees can offer clarity.