Heitkamp Reintroduces Bill to Make Sure North Dakotans Know Who’s Funding Campaign Spending

WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today helped reintroduce a bill to crack down on secret campaign spending and promote transparency so that North Dakotans—not special interests—control the electoral process.
The DISCLOSE Act would require tax-exempt groups and super PACs that spend money on elections to disclose their spending as well as their major individual sources of funding over $10,000. The bill also includes new provisions this year to safeguard U.S. elections from the influence of foreign money by prohibiting domestic companies that are foreign owned, operated, or controlled from spending on U.S. campaigns. It’s already illegal for foreign nationals or governments to contribute to campaigns in the U.S., and this bill would help make sure those laws are followed.
“Out-of-state billionaires and special interests shouldn’t get to hide who they are—and what their agenda is—when they try to influence North Dakotans,” said Heitkamp. “That’s why I’m proud to help reintroduce a bill that would crack down on secret campaign spending and shed light on the big money donors who are trying to influence our political process in secret. These organizations and donors shouldn’t be afraid to come forward and show who they are. Our elections work best when voters, not special interests, set the agenda. This bill would help make sure that happens by keeping all of us informed about who’s trying to influence our opinions—and it also contains updated provisions to make sure foreign money stays out of our elections.”
The amount of dark money in politics has increased dramatically since 2006—and by 2014, only 29 percent of election spending was transparent, according to a study of spending in six states released last year by the Brennan Center of Justice at New York University School of Law.
Heitkamp’s bill would require organizations that spend money on elections, including super PACs and tax-exempt groups, to promptly report donors who give more than $10,000 during an election cycle. It would also crack down on shell organizations to make sure groups don’t move money around to get around disclosure requirements.
Earlier this year, Heitkamp joined U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana in another effort to push back against dark money in politics, signing onto the Sun Act. Heitkamp and Tester introduced the bill to make sure the public knows who is funneling money into tax-exempt groups that currently aren’t required to disclose their donors as they try to influence elections through TV and radio ads, direct mail, and more.
Tester and Heitkamp’s bill would guarantee the public knows when donors spend more than $5,000 on tax-exempt groups that engage in electioneering, and would have no impact on non-profits that don’t engage in election activities.
Last year, Heitkamp joined eight U.S. Senate colleagues in announcing a comprehensive new legislative package to reform government and guarantee it works for all Americans—not just special interests, corporations, and those at the top.

Led by U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley, the package included legislation to make campaign finance more transparent, amend the Constitution to end unlimited campaign contributions, and reform lobbying to limit the influence of special interests. Heitkamp also cosponsored Udall’s resolution to amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, and allow federal and state legislators to put reasonable limits on campaign contributions.

Since her time as North Dakota’s Attorney General, Heitkamp has pushed for more campaign finance transparency. Heitkamp has long supported a constitutional amendment to allow Congress and states to set reasonable restrictions on political campaign donations to reduce the drastically growing influence of big money in financing campaigns and even the playing field for all campaigns both large and small. Following recent Supreme Court decisions, there have been hundreds of millions of dollars spent in federal elections by special interest groups that do not need to disclose their donors.

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