Transparency Antidote to Dark Money This Election

Editorial | | March 17, 2012

This Sunshine Week, as the nation commemorates the importance of open government and freedom of information, the Sunlight Foundation is leading a campaign to engage voters to call on their lawmakers and the Obama administration to address the disastrous effects of the game-changing rulings by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and a federal district court in v. FEC.

These rulings paved the way for super PACs and a small group of elites to spend unprecedented sums – with little or no transparency – to influence voters...While we know what super PACs spend on in near real time via the FEC’s website, we have to wait to learn who is giving the money because of disclosure filing rules. Even then we don’t get the whole picture. That meant voters in the Iowa caucuses and three early primaries had to wait until after they cast their votes to find out who was trying to influence them – even though the technology exists to disclose within 24 hours.

More alarmingly, we are also witnessing a proliferation of completely undisclosed “dark money” in the presidential race. Well-heeled donors can conceal their identities by giving to social welfare groups (known as 501(c)(4)s for their tax-exempt status) that do not have to disclose donors...