Senate overrules White House on donor disclosure rule allowing dark political money

In a reprimand to the White House, the U.S. Senate narrowly approved a measure on Wednesday, Dec. 12, to cancel a Treasury Department rule which shields the identities of some donors to political non-profit groups.

A motion sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the resolution passed 50–49, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) the sole Republican breaking ranks and joining Democrats to ensure passage.

Under the motion, Congress would invoke the Congressional Review Act to nullify a July Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rule allowing donors contributing under $5,000 to political non-profit organizations to conceal their identity.

“We’re willing to work in a bipartisan way to get something done on this unbelievable flood of money that hits these elections every year.  Most of it comes out of dark-money circles,” said Tester prior to the vote.

“The Trump administration’s dark money rule makes it easier for foreigners and special interests to corrupt and interfere in our elections,” Wyden added.

Senate Republicans voted against the measure, citing privacy issues, and insisting the new rule did not prevent the IRS from performing its job.

Commenting on the measure ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell countered Democratic claims by describing the bill as a a violation of freedom of speech.

“(This motion is) an attempt by some of our Democratic colleagues to undo reforms that protect Americans’ private, personal information as they exercise their First Amendment rights.”

Prior to rule change enacted by the Treasury in July, the old guidance forced non-profits, trade associations and charities to reveal the personal information of donors on its IRS Schedule B forms.

Under the new rule Senate Democrats are contesting, political groups must release information from political groups, but charities and other non-profit groups do not.

The House of Representatives will not take up the measure while Republicans still remain in control of Congress’ lower chamber.


[Wall Street Journal] [Politico] [Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Times]

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