The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Legislators in at least 23 states are trying to do something about dark money

It’s been roughly three and a half years since the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and states are still trying to improve transparency around campaign finances.

Almost half the states have considered amending campaign-finance rules over the past year and a half, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis. The majority of the 66 bills introduced in 2012 and 2013 would mandate more disclosure, according to the pro-transparency group’s findings. Just two would hurt disclosure efforts and 25 would remain neutral. The remaining 39 would further transparency.

The Sunlight Foundation’s survey, which analyzed bills amending campaign finance laws that were introduced in 2012 and 2013, found that while few bills have made it into law so far, the legislation that has been introduced–like [a] New Jersey measure requiring politically active nonprofits to disclose their donors–suggests widespread interest in improving transparency at the state level.

So far, bills have passed in eight states and the District of Columbia. A measure in Illinois is worse for disclosure efforts. Measures in Connecticut, Florida and Maryland were deemed neutral. And separate measures in D.C., Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota and Rhode Island would improve disclosure around so-called “dark money.”

The analysis is based on a review of legislation in the Sunlight Foundation’s “Open States” database and the organization says it’s possible some such bills were missed.

The nonprofit investigative Center for Public Integrity conducted a similar analysis in June and found that in the wake of the ruling, which lifted restrictions on corporate political spending, many states lifted political spending limits on individuals.