WASHINGTON – Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday, urged the House of Representatives to reject an amendment that would undermine the so-called 527 stealth PAC law, an important campaign finance reform authored by Lieberman and enacted two years ago in an effort to rid the nation’s electoral campaigns of undisclosed campaign cash.
“I am truly troubled by the provision the House is scheduled to consider tomorrow,” Lieberman said. “That provision goes much farther than necessary to address the legitimate problem. Instead, it threatens to open up a loophole that could reintroduce undisclosed money into politics.”
Lieberman’s comments came at a press conference with Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), and Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook, to release a report by Public Citizen documenting the activities and regulation of tax-exempt 527 groups. The report found that while the 527 regulations have been successful at informing voters about who is trying to influence elections, more needs to be done to achieve full transparency.
“What this report highlights is that this is a time to beef up the 527 law and its enforcement, not to water it down,” Lieberman said. “After fighting so hard for this bill to pass two years ago, and for McCain-Feingold to pass just this year, we simply cannot tolerate the idea that groups taking a tax-exemption from the federal government will be able to influence our elections without reporting about their activity to anyone,” Lieberman said. “Our bill provides a road map on how to fix the existing problems without creating new ones.”
The 527 legislation enacted in 2000 requires 527 organizations to declare their existence, disclose the source of their contributions, and how they spend those contributions, in order to maintain their tax-exempt status.
The House amendment, sponsored by Representative Bill Thomas, R-Calif., responds to a legitimate complaint – that a number of state and local candidates and PACs must now report the same activity twice.
However, the Thomas bill, Lieberman said, threatens to create new loopholes by offering too broad an exemption from the reporting requirements, allowing alleged state PACs out of the federal reporting requirement even if they don’t report all of their activity on the state level.
Lieberman and Senator Kay Baily Hutchison, R-Texas, have offered an alternative measure in the Senate to address the duplicate reporting issue. Lieberman explained that the bill, introduced Tuesday, differs from the Thomas legislation in that it does not offer an exemption to state PACs that don’t report all of their large contributions and spending on the state level.