The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has contributed to an unprecedented influx of money into the election process, raising questions about donor disclosure by 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations. A highly politicized issue, Members of Congress and the public have begun to both call for, and question, increased scrutiny of 501(c)(4) organizations that appear to be engaged in partisan political activity. Read more about political activity of 501(c)(4) organizations.
DISCLOSE Act reintroduced
On January 3, 2013 on the first day of the 113th Congress, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) reintroduced the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 148). As of December 2013, 73 lawmakers cosponsored the legislation.
Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Follow the Money Act (S. 791) on April 24, 2013, legislation to require all groups, including 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, that spend at least $10,000 on political activities to disclose the names of donors who contribute $1,000 or more. In a related measure, Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, introduced the OPEN Act (H.R. 2670), which would limit the amount 501(c)(4) tax exempt organizations can spend on political activities to 10 percent of their total annual expenditures, or $10 million, whichever is less.
The DISCLOSE Act was reintroduced in the House (H.R. 4010) by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and in the Senate (S. 2219) by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. On March 29, 2012, the Senate Rules and Administration committee held a hearing on S. 2219. Click here to watch the hearing and read the testimony.
Senator Whitehouse introduced a second version of the bill (S. 3369) on July 10, 2012, which was the version brought to the Senate floor. The Senate voted 51-44 to block consideration of S. 3369 on July 16, 2012. Click here to view the roll call results. A second vote was held the following day, which failed by a 53-45 vote.The following is a summary of the legislation introduced in the House and Senate in the 112th Congress:
Independent Sector wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressing our deep concern over the "carve out" in the House version of the bill, noting that "we would find it very difficult to support legislation that included provisions that would favor larger, generally more powerful organizations over the critical voices of smaller national, regional, state and local nonprofits. The Senate was unable to pass the DISCLOSE Act before the end of the legislative session.