Rep. Price Introduces Legislation to Overturn Controversial “Dark Money” Rule

December 13, 2018
Press Release
House Congressional Review Act disapproval resolution follows Senate passage of identical measure authored by Sens. Tester, Wyden to protect democracy from foreign meddling and special interests

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, December 13, 2018, Congressman David Price (D-NC), Vice Chair of the House Democracy Reform Task Force, introduced legislation to overturn the U.S. Treasury Department’s controversial new decision that allows special interests—including foreign entities—to hide their major donors from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The legislation is a House companion of Senator Tester and Senator Wyden’s Congressional Review Act disapproval resolution, which passed yesterday in the Senate. Rep. Price’s Congressional Review Act is endorsed by Common Cause, Democracy 21, and has the following original cosponsors: Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force, Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Vice-Chair, Mark Pocan (D-WI), Vice-Chair, Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Vice-Chair, Ted Deutch (D-FL), Vice-Chair, and Salud Carbajal (D-CA).

 “I’m very pleased the Senate was able to work in a bipartisan way to begin protecting our democracy from the flood of dark campaign money,” said Congressman Price, Vice Chair of the House Democracy Reform Task Force. “At a time when our elections are plagued by unlimited corporate spending, anonymous donors, and illegal foreign meddling, the Trump administration’s decision to obscure millions in dark campaign money weakens our already failing campaign finance system and diminishes the power of voters. I’m proud to introduce this disapproval resolution alongside Senator Tester and Senator Wyden to hold political groups accountable and shine a light on dark money in our elections.”

“Our democracy survives – and thrives – only when it fully represents a government of, by and for the people,” said Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi.  “Congressman David Price and the House Democracy Reform Task Force are to be commended for their tireless efforts to ensure openness and transparency in our campaign finance laws.  Joining the Senate to overturn this dangerous IRS guidance is a critical step toward ending the self-enrichment, secret money and special interests that threaten our democratic institutions and undermine the American people’s voice in our democracy.  The new Democratic Majority’s first priority will be to deliver H.R. 1, a bold reform package that will restore integrity in Washington to ensure that our government works for everyone.”

“These dark money forces are a threat to our democracy and they must be reined in,” Senator Tester said. “This resolution sheds more light on the wealthy few who are trying to buy our elections and drown out the voices of regular folks. I am proud to work with Rep. Price to bring transparency and accountability back to political campaigns.”

“A vote to throw out Trump’s dark money rule is a vote to prevent foreigners and special interests from interfering in our democracy,” Senator Wyden said. “This is critical in America’s fight against anonymous political insiders looking to tighten their grip on Washington. I support Congressman Price’s efforts to take action before the end of the year and urge Paul Ryan to stand up for law enforcement officials who need this disclosure to crack down on bad actors seeking to corrupt our elections.”

 “With special interests, multi-national corporations, and hostile foreign actors spending hundreds of millions of dollars in secret money to try to influence our elections in recent years, the Trump Treasury Department’s decision this summer to eliminate disclosure requirements on tax forms for certain organizations makes zero sense,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at the non-partisan watchdog organization Common Cause. “We applaud Congressman Price for introducing a resolution to overturn this rule because Americans deserve to know who is trying to influence their votes and their voices.”

“Democracy 21 strongly urges Representatives to support the CRA disapproval resolution sponsored by Representative David Price to invalidate the irresponsible Treasury Department rule that eliminates the existing requirement for nonprofit groups to disclose their donors to the IRS,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer. “Under existing law foreign governments can contribute unlimited amounts to nonprofit groups that spend money to influence elections. The elimination of the requirement for these contributions to be disclosed to the IRS opens the door for foreign interests to illegally launder huge sums through nonprofit groups to influence our elections without the government being able to know it is going on. If the new Treasury rule is not eliminated, a massive dark money loophole will be opened in our laws for foreign individuals, foreign corporations and foreign corporations to illegally spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections. Any Representative who opposes the Price the disapproval resolution will be supporting a dangerous dark money loophole for illegal foreign money to be secretly laundered into our elections.”

In September, Congressman Price introduced separate legislation, the Spotlight Act to reverse the Treasury Department decision allowing politically active non-profit organizations to avoid disclosing certain donor information to the IRS. The bill also requires these organizations to disclose the names of major donors to the public, not just the IRS. Spending by these organizations is often called "dark money" because these outside groups generally do not have to disclose the sources of their funding and often serve as conduits for extremely wealthy individuals and foreign interests to influence elections. Rep. Price’s Spotlight Act is cosponsored in the House by Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Washington, D.C.), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Katherine Clark (D-MA).  This pro-accountability, pro-disclosure legislation is also endorsed by Democracy 21 and Common Cause.  In the Senate, the Spotlight Act was cosponsored by 28 U.S. Senators.

The full text of the companion Congressional Review Act legislation can be found here.