Voters are finally beginning to learn who is funding political campaigns in their states. According to a recent poll conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, thirty-eight states are considering new disclosure laws that would require dark money organizations to disclose donors, including one proposed in Arkansas by Representative Clarke Tucker.
Dark money groups have become highly influential in statewide elections, spending $25 million in 2014, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Rep. Tucker’s proposal is a comprehensive piece of legislation that goes further than any bill previously introduced in Arkansas. It broadens the scope of groups who have to disclose their donors to capture those groups who spend in politics while keeping voters in the dark about their activities.
The Supreme Court has on numerous occasions affirmed the importance of disclosure laws. The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated, “requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.” Voters agree, as a poll conducted by the New York Times shows that 75 percent of Americans believe that groups not affiliated with candidates should disclose their contributors.
Our Blueprints for Democracy report outlines several reforms designed to bolster disclosure laws and ensure everyone knows who is funding campaigns. Implementing legislation that shows the real sources of money and subsequently makes that data public facilitates the detection of actual corruption. Citizens gain a better understanding and a more complete picture of where their candidates stand on the issues.
Disclosure is a vital aspect to the health and functionality of any democracy. Through disclosure reforms, we can ensure our elected leaders work for everyone, and hold them accountable when they don’t.