FEC Rule Kept as Much as $769 Million in Political Spending in the Dark


Enforcement of donor transparency requirements would give voters in November knowledge about who is funding election ads

WASHINGTON  - Campaign Legal Center (CLC) released a new analysis of the impact of the FEC’s inadequate disclosure rule that was struck down in an August 3 DC District Court decision. The FEC’s now-vacated rule allowed as much as $769 million in dark money to flow into federal elections since the 2010 campaign cycle. The document also analyzes new FEC guidance issued October 4 about disclosure requirements in the wake of the court’s decision.

Laws passed by Congress require disclosure of donors who give to support a group’s “independent expenditures,” which are ads that expressly advocate for or against federal candidates. But an FEC rule narrowed the requirement and defeated the law’s transparency requirements. The D.C. District Court struck down this rule, and a result, groups that make independent expenditures must now report contributors over $200. Between September 19, the day after the court’s order took effect, and October 3, groups now subject to disclosure reported more than $15 million on independent expenditures.

“The explosion in dark money is often attributed to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, but these figures show that the FEC must also shoulder the blame,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal reform at CLC.

Under the FEC’s new guidance, contributions received on or after August 4, 2018 are subject to disclosure, for independent expenditures made on or after September 18. The next quarterly report is due October 15.