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Issue One statement on campaign finance related-riders in House Appropriations Committee markup of government funding bill

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Cory Combs

Director of Media Relations

UPDATED September 14, 2017, 10am ET: 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a dozen appropriations bills which included these campaign finance riders. They now move to the Senate for consideration. 

UPDATED July 14, 2017, 11am ET: 

Late Thursday evening, measures negatively impacting the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Federal Election Commission (FEC) were passed by the House Appropriations Committee in their FY18 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill.
During debate, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) offered an amendment to strip an SEC-related rider aimed at stopping the agency from studying or making rules regarding disclosure of corporate political spending. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), the ranking member on the FSGG subcommittee, supported his amendment, which was defeated.
Similarly, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) proposed an amendment to strike the provisions aimed at hamstringing the IRS from rulemaking in regards to 501(c)(4) political spending and preventing the FEC from enforcing the prohibition against trade association PACs double-dipping into the same donor pools, which was eventually defeated. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Quigley spoke in favor of Kilmer’s amendment.
Also during debate over Kilmer’s amendment, Nebraska Republican Jeff Fortenberry opposed it, but did so “reluctantly” because, he said, the American people are “exhausted” by the current money in politics regime. He hopes its sparks a broader bipartisan discussion.
(Original post below)

Remember when language buried on page 1,599 of the 2014 end-of-year spending bill, Cromnibus, dramatically expanded how much donors could inject into national parties? And the intended consequence that a single donor can now contribute up to $474,600 per year to joint fundraising committees?

Well, secret provisions are potentially back in Thursday’s full House Appropriations Committee markup of the FY18 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill.

These campaign finance-related riders would dramatically affect campaigns and elections that fall within the jurisdiction of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Issue One Chief of Policy, Programs and Strategy Meredith McGehee issued the following statement ahead of the expected riders. 

“The IRS rider seeks to keep the agency from properly enforcing long-standing statues that articulate the appropriate role of ‘social welfare’ groups. Blocking IRS action instead serves to draw a roadmap for dark money groups, such as the Trump-supporting America First Policies and the liberal Patriot Majority USA, to exert more influence on our elections with millions of undisclosed dollars.

“These riders seek to legislate in darkness in order to create more darkness about who is spending money to influence outcomes in U.S. elections.

“Additionally, another rider would hamstring the SEC from even studying corporate political spending, even though, in the Citizens United decision, the Court explicitly recognizes the value of corporate disclosure to shareholders:

With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters. Shareholders can determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are “ ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.” …[D]isclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.

“The SEC should be able to determine whether rules are needed to inform shareholders how corporate executives spend company resources on politics.

“On another front, the bill set for markup would bar the FEC from enforcing long-standing restrictions aimed at preventing double-dipping by trade association PACs. Currently, the sponsoring organization of a trade association’s PAC may pay for PAC administrative and solicitation costs out of its general treasury. The trade-off for this benefit is that if the trade association PAC wants to solicit money from its member-corporation employees, it must receive approval from that member company. Since the 1970s, those companies have been able to only approve one PAC to solicit their employees per year. Should this rider become law, these specialty PACs would be free to solicit donations from a drastically expanded pool of potential donors, and corporate executives would be permitted to give contributions to multiple trade associations, increasing the disparity between large-dollar donors and the vast majority of Americans.”