Reiterating his concern that undisclosed campaign funding is undermining American democracy,  U.S. Sen. Angus King , I-Maine, said he is joining members of the Senate’s Democratic Caucus to reintroduce a bill that would “shine a light on so-called dark money.”

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows on Tuesday called on U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to join the effort.

Bellows is running against Collins, who is seeking her third term in the Senate.

The measure King has signed on to requires organizations that spend money to influence elections to disclose their spending and major funding sources in a timely manner.

“The perfect storm of recent Supreme Court decisions has ushered a flood of dark money into our political system, and it makes the American people question the integrity of our political process and erodes public confidence in Congress and in us as elected officials,” King said in a prepared statement.

He added, “The only way to fix it in the short term is to require immediate and complete disclosure of contributions so that the American people can see exactly who is trying to influence their vote. This should not be a partisan issue. The very future of our democracy depends on it.”

Dark money refers to campaign funds that are not disclosed to voters prior to voting. 

King has long been an advocate of campaign finance reform. The DISCLOSE Act, as King supports it, would require organizations spending $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours, detailing each expenditure over $1,000 and the names of all of its donors who gave $10,000 or more, according to a release issued by King’s office.

The bill is similar to legislation that failed to move to a vote in the U.S. Senate in 2012, when Republicans filibustered the bill. Collins, who has been endorsed by King in her re-election bid, voted with her Republican colleagues.

The current measure, authored by U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., is co-sponsored by King and 48 others in the Senate.

In a news release issued Tuesday, Bellows pointed to a Center for Responsive Politics study that showed more than $310 million was spent on undisclosed election activities in 2012, up from $69 million in 2008. The study notes that about 85 percent of the spending came from groups aligned with the Republican Party. 
 
“I’m running a grassroots campaign with small-dollar donations and no corporate PAC money because individual voices need to be heard in Washington, not drowned out by anonymous checks and back-room political deals,” Bellows said.
 
“The public should have the right to know who is funding Washington politicians behind the scenes,” she said. “The DISCLOSE Act is an important first step in ending the influence of secret money in our politics, and I call on Republican Susan Collins to join me and Sen. Angus King in supporting this bill.”
 
Collins’ campaign spokesman said she has been a longtime advocate for campaign finance reform “and has supported efforts to make our elections more transparent.”
 
Spokesman Lance Dutson added, “The previous version of this bill received broad opposition, including from the ACLU, for a number of reasons, including the unfair way smaller advocacy groups were treated.”
 
As former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, Bellows had opposed that previous version.
 
Dutson noted that Collins was one of the first Republicans to support the landmark McCain-Feingold Act, which set campaign finance limits and increased transparency.
Dutson said Collins would continue to support nonpartisan efforts to bring more transparency to the nation’s campaign financing process.
 
The bill endorsed by King was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday. It appeared unlikely that action would be taken on the measure until later this fall.
 
 

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