BigNews.Biz - Mar 11,2017 - Heitkamp Joins Tester in Fight to Expose Dark, Unaccountable Money in Politics
Senators’ Bill Would Guarantee Funders of Tax-Exempt Groups Seeking to Sway Public Opinion Are Accountable to Voters
WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp joined Senator Jon Tester of Montana in an effort to push back against dark money in politics, signing onto a bill he introduced to make sure the public knows who is funneling money into tax-exempt groups that currently aren’t required to disclose their donors as they try to influence elections through TV and radio ads, direct mail, and more.
The amount of dark money in politics has increased dramatically since 2006—and by 2014, only 29 percent of election spending was transparent, according to a study of spending in six states released last year by the Brennan Center of Justice at New York University School of Law.
Tester and Heitkamp’s bill would guarantee the public knows when donors spend more than $5,000 on tax-exempt groups that engage in electioneering, and would have no impact on non-profits that don’t engage in election activities.
“If out-of-state billionaires want to jam North Dakota airwaves with year-round political ads, we should at least know who’s behind them,” said Heitkamp. “North Dakotans have the right to know who’s trying to influence our opinions—whether it’s through TV ads or advocacy groups whose donors are currently undisclosed. This commonsense bill would give voters the transparency they deserve. Our campaign finance system isn’t working, and I’m proud to join Senator Tester in fighting to make sure our government is accountable to voters, not special interests.”
“Our campaign finance system is broken," said Tester. "That's why I am pleased to partner with Senator Heitkamp to add some western common sense to our elections and shine light on the dark money interests trying to influence our democracy."
“We're heartened to see more support in Congress for disclosure of donations to nonprofits that are engaging in electioneering,” said Alex Howard, Deputy Director of the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit promoting open government. “The SUN Act adds much-needed sunshine to the people seeking to influence our politics through dark money."
Last year, Heitkamp joined eight U.S. Senate colleagues in announcing a comprehensive new legislative package to reform government and guarantee it works for all Americans—not just special interests, corporations, and those at the top.
Led by U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley, the package included legislation to make campaign finance more transparent, amend the Constitution to end unlimited campaign contributions, and reform lobbying to limit the influence of special interests. Heitkamp also helped reintroduce Udall’s resolution to amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, and allow federal and state legislators to put reasonable limits on campaign contributions.
Since her time as North Dakota’s Attorney General, Heitkamp has pushed for more campaign finance transparency. Heitkamp has long supported a constitutional amendment to allow Congress and states to set reasonable restrictions on political campaign donations to reduce the drastically growing influence of big money in financing campaigns