COLUMBUS — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) is calling for campaign finance reform in the wake of last week's election in which Brown says more than $40 million in outside special interest money was spent against him while campaigning against Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R).
The Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections — or Disclose Act — of which Brown is a co-sponsor, would address the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which permits unlimited political contributions by corporations and unions.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Brown said the court ruling opened the floodgates for non-profit organizations and corporations to influence the democratic process by making large campaign contributions without necessarily having to disclose who their donors are.
The Disclose Act would prevent government contractors and those who received government bailout funding from spending money on elections, as well as require the shareholders of a corporation to vote on whether money should be spent on campaign contributions. According to Brown, this requirement would empower shareholders — many of whom are middle-class Americans with pensions and 401Ks tied to stock.
The Disclose Act also calls for the Internal Revenue Service to investigate groups that file for non-profit status as so-called “social welfare” groups, but whose only aim, according to Brown, is to affect the political process and only run political ads. These non-profit groups have a tax-exempt status and aren’t currently required to register with the Federal Election Commission or reveal their donors.
“Special interests should not have a louder voice in our democracy than middle-class families,” Brown said.
Brown added that a lot of wealthy people have said they are looking for a repeal of state tax, weaker environmental laws, and consider making large campaign contributions as an investment for their own financial benefit.
“It poisons our political process in too many ways, and that’s why I’m urging my colleagues to approve this measure,” Brown said. “We have a responsibility to our country.”
Asked if he has the support required for approval of the Disclose Act, Brown says he has support in the Democratic-led Senate but expects Republicans to support it as well because the public overwhelmingly wants to see change.
“People are just sick of the ads and the negative nastiness of these campaigns,” Brown told The Logan Daily News.
Although Brown hopes to gain enough support in the Republican-led House if it’s first approved in the Senate, he said he's prepared to try again next year if it doesn’t go through.
“We expect the number [of supporters] on the Disclose Act to grow this year and next year,” he said. “We know Democrats support it, but expect Republicans to support it.”