Carper, Coons Decry Senate Failure to Pass DISCLOSE Act to Increase Transparency in our Elections

Government and Politics

September 23, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D-Del.) today voted in favor of passing the DISCLOSE Act, legislation to combat anonymous special interest spending in American politics. Both Carper and Coons are cosponsors of the legislation, which would require organizations spending money in federal elections to disclose their donors and major sources of funding, allowing the American people to be more aware of who is attempting to influence public opinion and elections.

“Dark money has left our democracy vulnerable to foreign interference and unfettered political spending by special interest groups for too long. I’m disappointed that my Republican colleagues in the Senate have once again blocked the DISCLOSE Act—a set of commonsense reforms to our campaign finance system that will shine a light on the millions of dollars secretly being poured into political campaigns each election cycle,” said Carper. “Despite today’s setback, I will continue to build support for passing the DISCLOSE Act to restore trust in our electoral process and ensure American voices are heard.”

“We have seen a flood of dark money steadily become more and more pernicious in its impact on our politics and our policies, here in Washington and now around the country,” said Coons. “Wealthy individuals and corporations and shadowy special interest groups have contributed hundreds of millions, now billions of dollars, across several election cycles that have undermined the integrity and fairness of our elections that are at the very heart of our democracy. This bill would do a simple thing: require full disclosure of all corporations, trade associations, nonprofits, engaging in electioneering, of any donors of $10,000 or more over any two year period. It wouldn't solve all the problems created by Citizens United, but sunshine is the best disinfectant, and despite today’s vote, the fight for increased transparency continues.”


Special interest influence over elections is a major problem in America. Citizens United and subsequent Supreme Court rulings permit super PACs and certain types of tax-exempt groups, such as 501(c)(4) nonprofits, to spend unlimited sums in elections. Many of those groups are not required to disclose their donors, allowing corporations and individuals to spend unlimited, undisclosed – or “dark” – money without being tied to the television ads and other electioneering activity the groups carry out.  Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, election spending has exploded. Dark money in particular has skyrocketed, despite the Supreme Court, by an 8 to 1 margin in Citizens United, upholding disclosure requirements as a means for citizens and shareholders to hold elected officials and corporate spenders accountable.

The DISCLOSE Act requires organizations spending money in elections – including super PACs and 501(c)(4) dark money groups – to promptly disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle. The DISCLOSE Act will be vital in helping Americans understand who is behind the massive uptick in dark-money and other special interest spending in recent years.  Dark money spending in our elections since Citizens United has now topped $1 billion, and the pace of spending by outside forces (i.e., not the candidates themselves) is accelerating.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, outside spenders—super PACs, dark money groups, and political parties—spent $2.6 billion in federal elections during the 2020 election cycle; that is roughly twice what was spent in the last presidential cycle in 2016.