People For the American Way

Government Spending Showdown May Include Money in Politics Provision

Federal Update

Perhaps the most critical item on the to-do list for the upcoming Congressional lame duck session is a must-pass spending bill which will keep the government funded for the upcoming fiscal year. In the past these negotiations have turned into ideological showdowns, which Republicans have used to try to embed harmful policy provisions because of the “must pass” nature of the measure.

While it’s not clear what the GOP-controlled Congress will attempt to do in the current lame duck session, we need to stay vigilant about the numerous ‘poison pill’ riders lawmakers may attempt to insert into the omnibus spending bill. Of particular concern are riders that would prevent the SEC and IRS from proceeding with rulemaking efforts that would allow for greater transparency and accountability in election spending. Last year’s spending bill included similar provisions.

The proposed SEC rule would require publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending to shareholders, something in which shareholders have demonstrated significant interest. The SEC has received more than 1.2 million comments from investors and the general public expressing support for the proposed disclosure rule, the most in the agency’s history.

The IRS rulemaking would provide clearer guidance for nonprofit organizations about what constitutes political activity and as a result would result in greater transparency in the political spending of those nonprofit organizations trying to game the system, which have in many cases become conduits to funnel enormous sums of untraceable money to influence elections. A vast majority of Americans from across the political spectrum believe that there is too much outside money in politics and support measures for greater transparency.

Unaccountable, secret money in elections has not only undermined people’s faith in our democracy, it has prevented our nation’s highest legislative body from fully addressing some of the most critical issues facing the country. The American people have a right to know who is working to influence our elections, and using the federal budget to prevent agencies from fulfilling their intended function is not only unethical, it’s unconstitutional.