The US President is asking Congress to pass a campaign finance bill that would force political groups to disclose large donors.
US President Joe Biden has called on Congress to pass legislation to combat “dark money” in US elections, calling inaccurate spending in politics a “serious problem” for democracy.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Biden said too much money being used to influence elections in the United States “flows in the shadows.”
He approved the Disclose Act, a law that would require political organizations participating in campaigns to disclose the names of major donors. The proposed legislation would also ban contributions from foreign companies.
“Right now, until Election Day, advocacy groups can run ads about issues — attacking or supporting a candidate — without disclosing who is paying for that ad,” Biden said. “Too often, powerful special interests use front groups to run these ads to win at all costs.”
The law is unlikely to pass in the 100-seat Senate, where Democrats do not have the 60 votes needed to override the filibuster, a legislative process that allows the minority to block important legislation .
Under US law, political action committees—commonly referred to as PACs—and individuals can only donate limited funds directly to political candidates.
But in a 2010 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the protections of free speech guaranteed by the US Constitution’s First Amendment give companies the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to indirectly reject or endorse candidates.
In addition, some political interest groups are not required to disclose their donors. Others obfuscate funding through bogus organizations that make it difficult – if not impossible – to trace the money back to the original donors.
Efforts to pass the Disclose Act ahead of November’s midterm elections come as Democrats are pushing to label former President Donald Trump and his supporters, who are contesting the 2020 election results over false allegations of voter fraud, as a threat to the represent democracy.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday the chamber would vote on the bill by the end of the week, and described secret donor electoral spending as a “veil over our democracy that must be torn away once and for all.”
Schumer thanked the bill’s lead sponsor, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, “for his efforts to eliminate the evil scourge of dark money.”
Though the bill will most likely fail, the Democratic Senate leader suggested the vote should aim to uncover which lawmakers support dark money in politics.
“This week we’re all going to report on whether we think Americans deserve to know who’s spending billions to affect our democracy,” Schumer said.
The issue of money in elections dominated the Democratic primary earlier this year, with pro-Israel groups — often funded by conservative billionaires — spending millions of dollars defeating progressives more pro-Palestinian human rights.
Progressive activists had unsuccessfully urged the Democratic Party leadership to denounce pro-Israel spending spearheaded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Last month, a panel of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) blocked a motion aimed at banning dark money in the party’s primaries.
“By not allowing this resolution to have its say, the Democratic Party is complicit in the railroading of democracy itself,” wrote Nina Turner, a former congressional candidate who faced an onslaught of pro-Israel spending earlier this year Twitter September 8th.
On Tuesday, Biden acknowledged that dark money is an issue for both major parties, but said Congressional Democrats “support more openness and accountability,” while Republicans have so far rejected calls for campaign finance reform.
“Dark money has become so commonplace in our politics. I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Biden said.