CCP President David Keating and Senior Fellow Eric Wang wrote an article for Politico discussing the dangers of the new Wyden-Murkowski legislation. You can find additional analysis of the bill here.
For a bill supposedly about “disclosure,” Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) gave surprisingly few details about their Follow the Money Act in their POLITICO op-ed, (“Shedding Light on Anonymous Ads,” May 13). While they wrote in broad generalities about requiring “full transparency on the part of independent political spenders,” they had already articulated that principle in a Washington Post op-ed last December. Five months later, they now have a completed bill pending in the Senate yet shy away from discussing the legislative details. What are they hiding?
Let’s begin with the bill’s overall framework, which Wyden and Murkowski describe breathlessly as a “whole new approach” to campaign finance law. This is a broad overstatement. The legislation requires any person or entity sponsoring “independent federal election related activities,” or receiving or soliciting contributions for such activities past certain thresholds, to register and report as an “independent political actor” with the Federal Election Commission. Those requirements parallel the treatment of PACs, which have been around for almost 40 years.
But the Supreme Court ruled 37 years ago, and reiterated recently in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that citizens and entities wishing to speak out about political issues cannot be forced to assume the “onerous restrictions” of PACs. Far from introducing a “new approach,” Wyden-Murkowski ignores a series of landmark Supreme Court cases that struck down vague and overbroad requirements in earlier laws that bear a remarkable resemblance to their proposal.