July 26, 2018

Klobuchar, Wyden Lead Entire Senate Democratic Caucus in Calling on Treasury Department to Reverse Decision that Protects Dark Money

It was recently announced that organizations involved in issue advocacy would no longer be required to identify the source of their contributions, a practice that helps prevent ineligible contributors—including foreign actors—from making illegal donations in U.S. elections  

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee, led the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in a letter today urging the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to reinstate a requirement for organizations to identify the source of their contributions, a practice that helps prevent ineligible contributors—including foreign actors—from making illegal donations in U.S. elections. The letter follows a recent announcement that this decades-old practice would no longer be required of groups engaged in issue advocacy.

“Americans have the right to know who is paying to influence our elections. We need to restore Americans’ confidence in our political system—that means shining a light on the dark money entering our elections, not making it easier for special interests and foreign actors to exploit loopholes at the expense of the American people,” the senators wrote in the letter. “We strongly urge you to reconsider your decision and reinstate the requirement that organizations identify their donors on their Form 990 filings.”

The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Acting Commissioner Kautter:

We write to express significant concern regarding the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service’s announcement that the IRS will no longer require certain tax-exempt organizations to identify the names of their individual donors and to strongly urge you to reverse the decision.

This announcement upends decades of practice under which 501(c)(4) groups that engage in issue advocacy are required to identify, in confidential filings, the names of individual donors who make significant financial contributions. This longstanding requirement is a commonsense way to prevent ineligible contributors—including foreign actors—from making illegal contributions in U.S. elections.

Our election laws expressly prohibit foreign nationals “from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly.” Eliminating the requirement that organizations identify the source of their contributions threatens to render the foreign donation prohibition nearly impossible to police and enforce. Coupled with the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened the floodgates for corporate contributions to politically active organizations, your decision today can be expected to exacerbate the already fraught problem of “dark money” influencing our elections.

Americans have the right to know who is paying to influence our elections. We need to restore Americans’ confidence in our political system—that means shining a light on the dark money entering our elections, not making it easier for special interests and foreign actors to exploit loopholes at the expense of the American people.

We strongly urge you to reconsider your decision and reinstate the requirement that these organizations identify their donors on their Form 990 filings.

Sincerely,

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