Press Release

September 22, 2022
Cardin Votes to Restore Transparency in Political Campaigns
Maryland’s senior senator votes to shine spotlight on and require disclosure of dark money that is warping our political system

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, released the following statement after Republicans blocked consideration of the “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act of 2022” (DISCLOSE Act). Senator Cardin is an original cosponsor of the DISCLOSE Act (S. 4822).

“Americans have a right to know who is bankrolling candidates and trying to influence our elections. By definition, the source of dark money is cloaked in secrecy, allowing unknown wealthy corporations, special interest groups, multi-billionaires and even foreign governments to push their own agenda without accountability. The Supreme Court’s awful 2010 decision in the Citizens United case unleashed a torrent of dark money expenditures into our political system. Studies show this dark money spending totaled less than $5 million in 2006, growing to $300 million in the 2012 elections, and then ballooning to more than $1 billion in the recent 2020 presidential election. The weight of dark money spending distorts our political process, and has regularly blocked Congress from taking action on pressing issues of the day, such as voting rights, reproductive freedom, environmental protection, worker safety, public health, and of course campaign finance reform. Dark money groups also regularly fund state-level voter suppression and disinformation campaigns.”

“The DISCLOSE Act would strengthen the foreign money ban by making it illegal to set up shell companies to conceal political activity. It also requires dark money groups to disclose their campaign spending if they spend more than $10,000 on elections or judicial nominations, and to disclose their big donors. The legislation would require better disclosure of top funders from outside groups that pay for ads that promote or attack a candidate, but stop short of expressly advocating for a vote or against a candidate.

“As Supreme Court Justice Brandeis said over a century ago: ‘Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.’ And as President Biden said earlier this week, dark money erodes public trust in our democratic institutions of government. We cannot allow our courts, for example, to be captured by dark money groups, as the independence of our courts is one of the crown jewels of our Constitution. The Supreme Court promises ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ to all who enter its hallowed chambers, not just the powerful. Before taking the bench for a lifetime appointment, federal judges swear an oath to treat all parties fairly regardless of their wealth or social status, as they promise to ‘administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.’ Congress must act to protect our courts and our democracy by passing the DISCLOSE Act without further delay.”