Shining Light on the Dark Money Tainting our Elections

You don’t have to be deeply immersed in politics to recognize the disturbing state of modern campaigns. There are lots of reasons for why this is the case, but one of the biggest—perhaps the biggest—happened five years ago today. That’s when the Supreme Court offered its decision in Citizens United v. FEC, ruling that corporations have the same rights as people to spend money and influence elections.

That decision unleashed a torrent of special-interest money that has washed over and tainted campaigns at every level. Even worse, the amount of money—especially anonymous money—pulsing through our elections grows with each cycle. It will not stop until we take action to reform our campaign finance system. With Citizens United and subsequent Supreme Court decisions, campaign finance laws that have held back this flood of money are now seriously eroded,  with elections becoming less democratic and more the province of the wealthy.

For decades I have worked to force more disclosure and transparency in the way campaigns are financed. With the amount of money gushing into campaigns it’s only fair and right that voters at least know who’s writing the checks.

There are other tools as well and that’s why today I am again joining  Sen. Tom Udall from New Mexico to cosponsor legislation that will provide a much-needed  safeguard against the influence of big money in US elections. We are calling for a  constitutional amendment  that would give Congress the power to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures. Democracy is threatened under a system where unlimited sums of money can be raised and spent by an anonymous few to support a candidate or derail a campaign.

I do not take constitutional amendments lightly. But the effects of Citizens United have become clear in the past few years, making our democracy less fair through huge sums of anonymous money influencing elections.

In the last Congress, I was proud to join with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, in sponsoring the bipartisan “Follow the Money Act,” which would require all entities that engage in election-related activity to report their significant donors. At the very least, voters should know where campaign money is coming from and where it’s going.

I hope my colleagues in the Senate will adopt these common-sense regulations to work towards more transparent campaigns in the future.