We have an opportunity to end dark money in Missouri.
I wrote a bill proposal last year called the “End Dark Money Act.” For the last several months, Missourians have signed on to a petition to show our support for ending the practice of hiding big-money political contributions.
On February 21, Representative Peter Merideth sponsored the bill. It is House Bill 1026.
Here’s what it does.
Defines “Original Source”
First, the bill defines “original source.” When we donate to candidates or ballot initiatives, we have to disclose our personal information. That transparency helps us hold our elected officials accountable and helps prevent corruption. We are the “original sources.”
The bill defines “original source” to make sure we see that same information no matter who donates. Big-money donors will no longer be able to funnel their money through one or more taxpayer-supported nonprofit organizations, have the organizations cleanse the donors’ names, and buy our government without us seeing who’s doing the buying.
Big-money donors will be treated like the rest of us.
The End Dark Money Act will stop the practice of anonymous political donations. Now, we will see the names of original sources, intermediary groups, and anyone else involved in trying to hide money in our political system.
Focus on Big-Money Donors
The End Dark Money Act targets big-money donors. Small donors who give $250 or less and folks who pay regular dues under $1500 per year to a membership organization do not need to be disclosed, making it easier for legitimate organizations to follow the law. Organizations that are fully committed to transparency can still choose to disclose the names of small donors.
Nonprofit organizations can also create separate accounts for political spending and for operational spending. Donors who give to nonprofits for non-political reasons do not need to be disclosed.
That’s the whole End Dark Money Act. It doesn’t require big changes. It provides a targeted approach to end dark money. It includes all entities so dark money operatives can’t get around it by creating an LLC instead of a nonprofit. And it follows the same penalty structure that is currently on the books: Fines and prosecution. If you don’t disclose the original source of the money, you lose the money.
We need more changes in our campaign finance system, but this is an easy and important place to start. We can get anonymous, big-money donations out of our state.
I wrote the End Dark Money Act with the experiences of cities, states, and the federal system in mind. It took months and a dozen drafts, and a lot of help from others. I submitted the final proposal with the people of Missouri in mind, but this bill can be used as a model throughout the United States. These types of laws are constitutional. The United States Supreme Court just upheld Montana’s Disclose Act last week.
We don’t need a lot of complicated language to get this done. We need a simple solution to a big problem: Just end dark money.
You can help get this done. We need to call our legislators, testify for this bill, and get it passed. Sign up to volunteer.