December 16, 2012

Regarding the Dec. 6 editorial “Hidden campaign cash”:

In the Citizens United case, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.” The problem with the current system is that individuals and special interests can hide behind shadowy organizations disguised as “social welfare” groups that funnel millions into campaigns, but voters have no idea who is trying to influence decisions.

The good news is that we can fix this. This year, a group of senators introduced the Disclose Act, which would create greater transparency in elections through new disclosure rules. Also, several colleagues and I have urged the Internal Revenue Service to explore whether “social welfare” organizations receiving certain tax advantages were improperly engaged in substantial campaign activity, which is barred by their 501(c)(4) status under the tax code. As the editorial pointed out, these organizations must report their donors to the IRS, but they are not required to report them to the public.

The Disclose Act would help the public better understand who is behind the political activity of these groups. The IRS should also ensure that these groups are operating within the confines of the law.

Michael Bennet, Washington

The writer, a Democrat from Colorado, is a member of the U.S. Senate.