Fighting to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, curtail dark money, and close the revolving door between Wall Street and the government, several Senate Democrats joined together on Thursday to announce the 2016 We The People Act. Besides disclosing the names of donors who contribute more than $10,000 during an election cycle, the legislation also seeks to permanently ban former members of Congress from lobbying.
“Six years ago, the Supreme Court put a ‘For Sale’ sign on our elections with the Citizens United ruling,” Sen. Tom Udall stated during a press conference on Thursday. “The McCutcheon opinion followed. Now, one person can give $3.6 million directly to campaigns and to parties. A full-time minimum wage worker would have to work 239 years to make that kind of money.”
Led by Sens. Chuck Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tom Udall, and Jeff Merkley, the We The People Act seeks to chip away at the concept of dark money by revealing the names of Super PAC donors who contribute more than $10,000 during an election cycle while requiring all candidates for federal office to report any donations over $1,000 to the FEC within 48 hours. Although senators currently have a two-year ban on lobbying after leaving office, and House members have a one-year ban, the bill would also seek a permanent ban on lobbying by former members of Congress.
“Billions of dollars in dark money are swamping our elections, empowering the special interests, undermining our democracy, and dragging Congress to a halt,” Schumer recently told The New York Times. “Getting the undisclosed money out of politics and reforming our lobbying rules will create a healthier democracy and a Congress that can actually get things done for the American people.”
“We all have a right to know who’s behind the microphone,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp stated during the press conference on Thursday. “We don’t know who’s behind the microphone. We don’t know who’s behind this money. It is wrong in so many ways. And so the disclosure piece of this package is absolutely critical. It was a suggestion that was actually made by the Supreme Court that we enact disclosure because it’s a critical component…”
Due to the fact that the majority of the Supreme Court failed to predict the legalization of dark money in politics, the voices of average constituents can no longer compete against massive corporations vying for political interests and protection. According to Independent Sen. Angus King, who supports the We The People Act, another provision in the bill would “replace the dysfunctional FEC and create a new independent agency to serve as a vigilant watchdog over our nation’s campaign finance system.”
On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to Twitter and wrote, “#WeThePeople Act reverses Citizens United, closes the revolving door between gov & Wall St, boosts disclosure, & strengthens lobbying rules.”
“When the Court, in a 5-4 decision, decided Citizens United, the majority opinion was written by Justice Kennedy,” Sen. Al Franken declared on Thursday. “And Justice Kennedy said some things in that decision that we should really remind ourselves about it. First of all, he said that this does not create the appearance of corruption. Well, I’m in the Senate, and it appears like there’s corruption to me.”