In an effort to get more transparency over the role of money in the political process and combat what is known as “dark money,” many states have passed laws that require political donors to reveal more key information. Numerous state legislatures have passed laws requiring donations over a specific amount to reveal publicly where the money comes from. And Western States are leading the way to bring a push for transparency in campaign finance reform.
The movement to combat dark money became an especially hot topic during the 2016 election and was mainly brought up in campaigns by Democrats who opposed the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that dramatically increased special interest group spending. With Congress stalled on this issue, it seems that now leading the charge to bring transparency to the increased spending are Republican and Democratic states from the American West.
One of the states leading the way in the West to combat the transparency problem is Idaho. Top Republicans in Idaho began the process by creating a working study group to come up with new laws to increase transparency. The group is made up of bipartisan members from both the Idaho House and Senate.
“Quite frankly, this is an issue we’ve been talking about for years,” Senate President Pro-Tem, Brent Hill said regarding the study group. His Democratic rival Michelle Stennett, representiving Ketchum, said following the announcement of the creation of the group, “Obviously we are encouraged the majority is finally willing to take this first step”.
Another western state which has passed a transparency law is Washington State. In 2017 Washington state passed HB 1807, also known as the Washington State Disclose Act of 2017. In section one of the law, it reads, “The legislature finds that the public has the right to know who is contributing to election campaigns in Washington state and that campaign finance disclosure deters corruption, increases public confidence in Washington state elections, and strengthens representative democracy.”
The bill was first introduced in February 2017 by House Democrat, Mike Pellicciotti. “Democracies flourish when voters can see the whole picture,” Rep Pellicciotti said following the announcement of the introduction of the bill. HB 1807, has yet to be passed by both houses of the legislature, and its status as of January 8, 2018, was listed as “reintroduced and retained in present status,” and now would have to go through the rules committee.
Washington State and Idaho are just two Western states who are attempting to make money in politics more transparent, with Montana already having lead the way with it receiving an “A” grade for it’s transparency efforts, and California having passed the impressively comprehensive California Disclose Act of 2017. California Governor Jerry Brown, signed the law in October 2017, and advocates have called it the toughest law regarding transparency in the country.
In conclusion, there is no excuse for states not making the political process more transparent by allowing citizens to see where monetary donations come from. On the other hand, donors shouldn’t feel like they are doing something criminal for simply supporting a candidate they choose. The states will surely continue wrestling with this issue into the future.
Links to sources:
- The Mercury news, California Disclose Act 2017: https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/10/01/california-bill-takes-aim-at-dark-money-in-politics-will-jerry-brown-sign-it/
- Washington State House Democrats Website, Introduction of Transparency law: https://housedemocrats.wa.gov/press-releases/pellicciottis-bill-to-shine-light-on-special-interest-dark-money-passes-committee/
- Washington State House Bill 1807: https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2017-18/Pdf/Bills/House%20Bills/1807.pdf
- The Spokesman-Review Link: www.spokesman.com/blogs/boise/2017/jun/19/new-legislative-working-group-ethics-campaign-finance-reform-hailed-great-start-toward-changing-how-we-do-business/
See more about transparency at the Democracy Chronicles Money Politics section!