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Cartwright Reintroduces Bill to Help Americans Follow the Political Dark Money Trail

Nov 15, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC Today, Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) reintroduced legislation to make sure we all know where corporate political money is going.

The Openness in Political Expenditures Now (OPEN) Act would require corporations to disclose political spending in their regular reports to shareholders. This bill would also cap political spending by tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations—which currently do not have to disclose their donors—in order to prevent groups from using their tax-exempt status to funnel millions of dollars into our elections at the taxpayer’s expense.

“Voters should set the terms of political debate in this country, not large corporations or dark money special interest groups,” said Rep. Cartwright. “That’s why I believe it’s time to shine a light on corporate political spending. Americans deserve to know who is paying to influence our elections.”

In January 2010, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, declared that the government may not prohibit political spending by corporations in candidate elections. However, then-Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s court opinion stated that “the Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements.”

Specifically, the OPEN Act would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 by:

  • Requiring corporations to disclose information on any significant political expenditure as part of their regular, periodic reports to their shareholders or members, and
  • Capping the amount of political spending a 501(c)(4) can engage in and still be considered an exclusively social welfare-focused organization at 10% of its annual spending or $10 million annually, whichever is lower.

The bill is supported by Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, and Common Cause, a nonpartisan government watchdog organization.

“With multi-national corporations spending millions of dollars in secret political money in recent years, all Americans deserve to know who is trying to influence our voices and our votes,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at Common Cause. “The OPEN Act would require much-needed transparency and accountability to ensure that corporations couldn’t hide the identities of those seeking to buy influence in Washington. From introducing the OPEN Act and the Time Off to Vote Act, as well as his strong support for H.R. 1 (the For the People Act), Common Cause commends Representative Cartwright for his longstanding leadership on democracy reform issues.”

The OPEN Act is co-sponsored by: Rep. DeFazio (OR-04), Rep. Kaptur (OH-09), and Rep. Schiff (CA-28).