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Spotlight Act to shine light on dark money in politics

Spotlight Act would increase transparency by requiring political non-profits to disclose donors

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U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) along with U.S. Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) are reintroducing their Spotlight Act to shine a light on dark money political donors and hold the government accountable to enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws. 

The Spotlight Act would require certain political non-profit organizations to disclose their donors to the Internal Revenue Service, reversing a Trump-era rule that eliminated the requirement and allowed such organizations to keep their donors secret. 

“Special interests and big money donors wield far too much power in our political system, and are able to do it without Americans ever knowing who is footing the bill,” Tester said. “The Spotlight Act will hold shadowy political groups seeking to influence our politics more accountable, and will restore some much-needed transparency to our elections.”

“For too long, our elections have been plagued by escalating foreign meddling and ballooning contributions from anonymous wealthy donors shielded by our tax code and weak campaign finance rules filled with loopholes,” said Congressman Price. “This unchecked influence on political campaigns distorts our democratic system and weakens the power of voters. I am proud to introduce this legislation with Senators Tester and Wyden and my House colleagues to reverse the Trump dark money rule and to shine a light on dark money in our elections.”

The group first introduced the Spotlight Act in 2018 after the Trump Administration attempted to rollback a rule that required non-profit organizations engaged in political activity to disclose basic information about their donors.

In 2019, the Trump Administration successfully implemented a second rule to roll back disclosure requirements for those non-profit organizations (including 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6) organizations). This rule allows dark money groups to hide the identities of their major donors.

The Spotlight Act would reinstate this rule, requiring non-profit organizations that engage in political activity—like donating to candidates and purchasing political ads—to provide the IRS with the names and basic information of donors who contribute more than $5,000. It would also prevent future Administrations from rolling the rule back again. In addition to ensuring these organizations are following the law, these disclosure requirements are an important tool to keep foreign actors from influencing American elections. 

The Spotlight Act is endorsed by non-partisan campaign finance reform organizations End Citizens United, Democracy 21, and Common Cause.

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