Sen. Maggie Hassan: Broken campaign finance system hurts our democracy

For the Monitor
Published: 8/23/2017 12:10:09 AM

America’s campaign finance system is severely broken, and it is hurting our democracy.

Every American deserves to know that their voice and their vote is equal to that of their fellow citizens. But today, the political system is captured by corporate special interests that get their way while hard-working families and small businesses pay the price.

In 2010, the Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United decision reshaped how our political system operates – tipping the scale in favor of powerful corporate interests. That decision helped unleash unlimited dark money in politics, overwhelming the voices of everyday Americans and influencing the policies that are addressed in Washington.

During my campaign for United States Senate, I pledged to the people of New Hampshire that I would take action to help ensure that money does not control our politics. And that is exactly what I am working to do.

I recently joined 45 of my colleagues in introducing the DISCLOSE Act of 2017, which would increase transparency in our campaign finance system. This common-sense bill requires any organization that engages in political spending to disclose its major donors – helping to restore accountability and giving voters a better understanding of who is behind political advertising.

Another consequence of our broken campaign finance system is that it could actually allow foreign donors, corporations or governments to influence our elections. While current law bans foreign individuals and companies from spending money in U.S. elections, there is a loophole for domestic companies with significant foreign ownership.

This loophole makes it possible for foreign nationals and foreign companies to use dark money to interfere in our elections. The DISCLOSE Act would work to address this problem by prohibiting domestic corporations under foreign control or ownership from spending money in U.S. elections.

As we work to pass the DISCLOSE Act, I am also pursuing other avenues to increase transparency in the political system, joining a number of my colleagues in sending a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton urging the SEC to require public companies to disclose to their shareholders their political spending.

While transparency is critically important, transparency alone is not enough to fix our broken campaign finance system. That is why I also helped introduce the Fair Elections Now Act, which would reduce the influence of big donors and corporate special interests by creating a voluntary system of public financing for Senate candidates.

Finally, in order to get at the root of this problem, and ensure that corporate special interests do not control our politics, I helped introduce a constitutional amendment that would reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.

Fixing the broken campaign finance system shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and I will work with anyone on either side of the aisle who is serious about standing up to special interests and getting dark money out of politics.

The future of our democracy depends on it.

(Maggie Hassan is New Hampshire’s junior U.S. senator.)

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