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SCHUMER HOLDS SENATE RULES COMMITTEE HEARING ON NEW VERSION OF DISCLOSE ACT

April 6, 2012

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, convened a hearing on S. 2219, the DISCLOSE Act of 2012. The bill is a new legislative effort to blunt the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision which allowed corporations and anonymous special interests to spend unlimited sums to influence elections.

At the hearing, experts in the field of campaign finance reform addressed the ways in which campaign fundraising and spending has changed since Citizens United and analyze how the proposed legislation can help rectify the situation.

Already in 2012, outside groups have spent $90 million influencing elections, and many can raise funds in unlimited amounts and not fully disclose their donors.

“Unlimited, secret, special interest money in elections is corroding our democracy and it must be stopped. There is a simple solution which I believe everyone can support - increased transparency,” said Schumer. “The only way to know who is behind the avalanche of political advertisements is to require full disclosure and disclaimer of donors.”

Last week, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)—joined by Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Al Franken (D-MN) and Schumer—introduced the new legislation, which is narrowly focused on requiring outside groups to disclose their donors and include disclaimers in their television ads.

The DISCLOSE Act of 2012, introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, requires that outside groups who make independent expenditures must disclose all their large donors. It also requires disclaimers so that those who view a political ad know who has paid for it.

The bill would require groups such as Super PACs, 501(c) organizations, corporations and labor unions who make independent expenditures to disclose their donors more frequently throughout the entire primary and general election period, giving voters the necessary tools to cast their ballots. Similarly, disclaimer requirements in all political advertisements will tell voters who is responsible for the ads they see.

Schumer introduced similar legislation in 2010, shortly after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC altered the election landscape by allowing corporations and labor organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money on independent expenditures. It failed by one vote to achieve cloture in the Senate, but a companion bill passed the House. The new legislation dropped some provisions and simplified the 2010 bill, but still is intended to require full disclosure of individuals and groups who spend money on elections.

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