January 04, 2019

Kilmer Campaign Finance Reform Bills Among First Order of Business in 116th Congress

Honest Ads Act will create disclosure rules for online political ads so public knows who purchased them

Honest Ads Act will create disclosure rules for online political ads so public knows who purchased them

Kilmer legislation to fix FEC, the government’s election watchdog, included in sweeping reform package

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 1, a sweeping reform bill that seeks to restore the voice of the American people in their democracy by making it easier to vote, ending the dominance of big money in the political process and ensuring public officials work for the public interest.  H.R. 1 includes The Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan bill first introduced in the House by Representative Derek Kilmer, and a second Kilmer bill that reforms the FEC.

“It’s important to restore public faith in our democracy. Protecting voting rights, strengthening ethics rules to ensure that public officials serve the public interest, and reducing the role of big money in politics are vital steps to refreshing our democracy and ensuring it works for the people,” Rep. Derek Kilmer said. “I’m excited that the first bill Congress takes up this year includes two bipartisan proposals I’ve advocated.  Americans deserve to know who is paying for the political ads they see online, and we deserve to know that the nation’s election watchdog is walking the beat and protecting our democracy.  This bill is a great first step.”

The Honest Ads Act would shine a light on the murky world of online political advertising by requiring the hosts of online ads to disclose who paid for them. These requirements are the same as what is already required on television and radio. The bill had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate when it was introduced in the 115th Congress. Kilmer wrote about the need for the bill’s passage in an op-ed in The Seattle Times.

H.R. 1 also includes sweeping reforms to the way the Federal Election Commission, the government entity responsible for policing the nation’s election laws, operates. These reforms are based on a bill Kilmer previously introduced that would, among other things, expand the number of FEC commissioners from 6 to 5, so there are no longer split decisions among commissioners.

More broadly, H.R. 1 will tighten the rules on how Super PAC’s operate and repeal policy that currently prevents Congress from passing additional fundraising disclosure measures.

According to Vox, a large majority of Americans support the sweeping reforms contained within H.R. 1.

Vox also reported that, in addition to Kilmer’s Honest Ads Act and FEC reforms, HR 1 includes the following:

  • A system of citizen-financed elections that reduces the role of SuperPACs
  • A Constitutional amendment to end the practices upheld by the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, which determined that corporations have the same Constitutional rights to free speech as people.
  • A plan that strips donors to Super PAC’s of their anonymity—meaning an end to the era of “dark money”. This is based off the DISCLOSE ACT, which Kilmer co-sponsored in the 115th Congress.
  • A requirement that government contractors must disclose their political spending, which will hinder the ability of foreign countries to form shell companies and use them to influence the outcome of American elections.
  • A prohibition on coordination between candidates and Super PAC’s
  • A requirement that the President, Vice President, and candidates seeking those offices to disclose the last 10 years of their tax returns.
  • A prohibition on the use of taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment and discrimination cases.
  • A plan to empower the Office of Government Ethics so it can better enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which applies to lobbyists working for foreign countries, and that strengthens the requirements regarding people who must register as lobbyists.
  • A new ethical code for the US Supreme Court, which applies the nation’s ethics laws to every branch of government.
  • A new voter registration system that automatically registers citizens nationwide who are eligible to vote and that promotes early voting and same-day voter registration so it is easier for Americans to participate in their duties as citizens. This provision would require Americans to opt-out of being registered to vote, rather than having to opt-in.
  • A measure which would make Election Day a national holiday for federal employees and encourage the private sector do to the same.
  • A measure that would end partisan gerrymandering, the practice of letting lawmakers and political operatives pick their constituents by determining the borders of electoral districts. The bill would also stop a practice used in some states that allows voters to be removed from the voting rolls when their mail isn’t able to be forwarded.
  • A plan to enhance election security by requiring the director of national intelligence to regularly check on foreign election threats.
  • An initiative to recruit additional poll workers ahead of the 2020 presidential election so that there are shorter lines at the polls and voting takes less time.