Earlier this year in its Citizens United v. FEC decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations, unions and other organizations may make unlimited political expenditures to elect or defeat candidates. Although the court endorsed disclosure of these contributions, there is a loophole in campaign finance law that allows groups to avoid disclosing fund sources – and even foreign corporations can now spend freely and secretly in American elections.
There is currently legislation pending in the Senate, the DISCLOSE Act, which would establish new disclosure requirements for corporations, labor unions, advocacy groups and trade associations. Unfortunately, our senators recently voted against letting the Senate even debate the bill. After Citizens United, strong campaign finance laws like the DISCLOSE Act are essential and are supported by the public. In a recent poll, more than 80 percent of Mainers said they strongly support campaign finance disclosure and transparency. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins should work with their Senate colleagues to come up with a version of the DISCLOSE Act they can support.
If the Senate does not act, there is nothing to prevent big moneyed interests – both domestic and foreign – from secretly influencing our elections. Voters deserve to know who is behind election advertising, and Maine citizens have said they want to know. Our senators have never shied away from independent action in the past, and we need them now more than ever.
League of Women Voters of Maine