For Political Ads, Follow the Money—If You Can

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, as reported by the New York Times, one-in-five political ads this election have been financed by untraceable dark money.

While the 2012 elections saw the high-water mark for dark money top $300 million, election experts expect even more undisclosed contributions in 2016. To make matters worse, Congress double-downed on dark money during last month’s budget battle by ineptly inserting provisions barring the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from acting to curb dark money.

So is it time to just rename Washington Watergate? Not exactly.

A supermajority of Americans (75 percent) believe that groups unaffiliated with campaigns should publicly disclose their contributors, politicians on both sides of the aisle are railing against secret money on the campaign trail and former members of Congress (Republicans and Democrats) are throwing their support behind common-sense transparency measures.

Increasing political spending disclosure is at the top of the agenda for the ReFormers Caucus, and since organizing last year the group has pressured President Obama to expand disclosure laws to cover federal contractors and urged the 2016 presidential candidates lay out specific policies on transparency.

Writing in Roll Call, ReFormers Caucus members Sens. Alan Simpson (R-WY), Bill Bradley (D-NJ) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE) said, “everyone has the right to know who is trying to influence our views and buy elections, we need full transparency and immediate disclosure of all political spending.

They’re right. The first step to solving America’s governing crisis is making sure that everyone knows who’s funding who.