A First Look: The Wyden-Murkowski “Follow the Money Act of 2013”

April 25, 2013   •  By Joe Trotter   •    •  

By David Keating, President and Eric Wang, Senior Fellow

Senators Ron Wyden and Lisa Murkowski are at least (somewhat) candid about their motivations when they say “The goal of this effort is disclosure, for disclosure’s sake.” (Backgrounder on Wyden-Murkowski at 1.)  Whether or not they have an ulterior motive of protecting their own incumbency is another matter.

Notably, Wyden and Murkowski do not purport to be concerned about whether the disclosure they seek to compel is constitutional, whether it is meaningful, whether it is informative to the public, or whether it furthers a legitimate governmental interest in preventing corruption or the appearance thereof.  Nor do they seem to care whether such disclosure is overly burdensome or deters political speech protected by the First Amendment. 

The bill would radically expand the reach of government regulation on speech critical of elected officials and force many, if not nearly all, advocacy groups to register and file burdensome reports with the federal government.  The registration and reporting scheme also includes the threat of stiff tax penalties on groups and individuals, along with an organizational death sentence that could be imposed by the IRS for errors.  If enacted, this bill would dragoon the IRS into a role as political campaign enforcer, a role the IRS is ill-equipped for and does not want.

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Joe Trotter