Senate Dems Launch 'We The People' Dark Money Agenda

| by Robert Fowler
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New YorkDemocratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York

Senate Democrats unveiled a legislative package designed to curb the amount of dark money coursing through elections. The policy agenda has been titled "We the People."

On June 9, a group of high-ranking Senate Democrats held a press conference before Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The group was led by Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and  Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

The package of Senate bills were largely aimed at campaign finance reform, with Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment to challenge the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling front and center.

“With our ‘We the People’ reform legislation, we’re taking action to fix our broken system, starting by increasing transparency and reining in special interests and big donations,” Udall said, according to KRWG.

“The public is disgusted, and it’s an obvious factor in this year’s election,” Udall added, in reference to the presidential campaign waged by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “I’m going to work as hard as I can until we overturn Citizens United, shine a light on billionaire donors hiding in dark corners, and ensure we have a real watchdog looking over our elections.” 

The policy agenda included Udall’s challenge to Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that allows for unlimited and undisclosed campaign contributions to be sanctioned as free speech.

Legislation proposed by Whitehouse would force super political action committees to disclose the name of any donor who contributes $10,000 or more.

One bill proposed by Democratic Sen. Angus King of Maine would require any candidate running for federal office to disclose any contributions exceeding $1,000 to the Federal Election Commission within 48 hours.

Two bills proposed by Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado would place a permanent ban on retired members of Congress from becoming lobbyists and force consultants to register as lobbyists if they take two or more contracts over two years, even if the work is for one client.

“Billions of dollars in dark money are swamping our elections, empowering the special interests, undermining our democracy, and dragging Congress to a halt,” Schumer told The New York Times. “Getting the undisclosed money out of politics and reforming our lobbying rules will create a healthier democracy and a Congress that can actually get things done for the American people.” 

The progressive policy organization Center for American Progress praised the policy agenda. CAP President and CEO Neera Tanden issued a statement through the group’s official website commending the plans.

“The package introduced by the Senate Democrats today responds to the public’s demand to make government more accountable by fighting the improper influence of money in politics, bringing transparency to the political spending, and limiting the lobbying excess,” Tanden said.

Sources: Center for American ProgressKRWGThe New York Times / Photo credit: Senate Democrats/Flickr

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