Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Republicans for Donor Disclosure State Legislators Feel the Corrupting Effects of Anonymous Campaign Donations

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Republicans for Donor Disclosure State Legislators Feel the Corrupting Effects of Anonymous Campaign Donations

Article excerpt

While Republicans in Congress continue to smother proposals for campaign finance transparency, statehouse Republicans from Maine to Montana are moving in the opposite direction. Some Republican state legislators are pushing back against the free-spending super-PACs and secretive independent groups that have been transforming U.S. politics into a proxy war among the super rich.

"When somebody's hiding in the shadows and gut-shoots you, you have a right to know who's taking a shot at you," Montana State Sen. Duane Ankney told the Montana Standard earlier this year.

Mr. Ankney sponsored a bill requiring disclosure of donors to any group that advocates within 60 days of an election - regardless of its tax status. The proposal is aimed at "social welfare" groups and trade associations organized specifically to fund political activities while avoiding campaign finance disclosure rules. Mr. Ankney's measure was signed into law last month by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who had been the target of attacks from a dark-money group.

Montana is one of a dozen states with Republican-controlled legislatures that are advancing or debating measures to force politically active nonprofit groups to become more transparent. The proposals range from imposing disclosure mandates to urging Congress to advance a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allowed individuals, corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums on politics. In the wake of the ruling, the vast majority of unregulated money has been contributed to super-PACs or nonprofit groups.

In Maine, Republican State Sen. Roger Katz is backing a ballot initiative strengthening the state's public financing system for campaigns and requiring outside groups to disclose their top three donors in communications that urge support for or opposition to a candidate.

Republican State Sen. Rob Schaaf of Missouri backs an initiative to impose limits on campaign contributions and gifts from lobbyists. Dr. Schaaf, an M.D. who was the target of attacks from the hospital industry after he helped block an expansion of Medicaid in the state and tangled with the industry on other issues, is also calling for greater disclosure of contributions to independent political groups. …

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