Kaptur introduces bill to boost transparency and reduce influence of foreign money on American democracy

June 27, 2018
Press Release
The REFUSE Act will close dark money loopholes and shore up foreign agent disclosure requirements

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Dean of the Ohio Delegation, today introduced the bipartisan Repelling Encroachment by Foreigners into U.S. Elections (REFUSE) Act, H.R. 6249. The bill would help limit the influence of foreign-controlled entities and corporations and bolster disclosure requirements for lobbyists of foreign agents.

“Look no further than the pervasive impact of Russian-sponsored political ads on Facebook to see why we need to maximize transparency and close the loopholes within our broken campaign finance system,” said Kaptur. “Until we repeal Citizens United -- which threw open the floodgates for billionaires and special interests to spend unlimited secret money on our elections -- we need common sense legislation to ensure foreign interests do not influence American democracy from the shadows.”

Watch Kaptur’s floor speech on the REFUSE Act here: https://youtu.be/MaCY1JmGGcw

The bill has 12 original cosponsors including Reps. Carson (D-IN), Deutch (D-FL), Holmes-Norton (D-DC), Jayapal (D-WA), Walter Jones (R-NC), McNerney (D-CA), Pingree (D-ME), Pocan (D-WI), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Raskin (D-MD), Shea-Porter (D-NH), and Waters (D-CA).

 

The REFUSE Act is endorsed by Public Citizen, Common Cause, the Campaign Legal Center, and the Sunlight Foundation.

What good government groups are saying about the REFUSE Act:

“The bipartisan REFUSE Act will protect our right to self-government by closing loopholes that foreign actors have used to secretly influence American democracy,” said Adav Noti, senior director, trial litigation at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “The bill’s bans on election spending by foreign-influenced corporations and by foreign-funded dark money groups are a major advance towards safeguarding our elections. And the bill’s strengthening of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) will ensure that voters know which foreign interests are trying to influence U.S. policy.”

“Instead of using nuclear weapons and guns, foreign entities are trying to undermine our democracy by exploiting our weak campaign finance laws and sowing discord through social media in this new type of ‘Cold War,’” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs with the non-partisan democracy reform group Common Cause. “All Americans deserve to know who is trying to influence their votes and their voices, and we commend Congresswoman Kaptur for introducing this common-sense legislation that would help secure the integrity of U.S. democracy.”

“Foreign meddling in American elections has reached all-time and alarming heights,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen. Russian sources in particular are exploiting the ‘dark money’ loopholes in our campaign finance laws, having launched a well-disguised and large-scale campaign ad blitz in the 2016 elections, and are already sponsoring anonymous and misleading ads for the upcoming elections. Kaptur’s REFUSE Act would help close these dark money loopholes, effectively shutting down the laundering of foreign money into campaign advertising. The REFUSE Act would also strengthen our lobby laws requiring full disclosure of foreign efforts to influence Congress or the executive branch on public policy. This is desperately-needed legislation.”

“Preventing foreign interference in our elections will require significant reform on several fronts, and the REFUSE Act takes on some of the most vital. Undisclosed dark money and foreign lobbying both represent urgent vulnerabilities for our politics that the REFUSE Act will help to close,” said John Wonderlich, Executive Director of the Sunlight Foundation.

What does the bill do?

The REFUSE Act works to combat the influence of money in politics and shines a spotlight in the deepest recesses of our election system. Illuminating the full reach of foreign and corporate special interests is the first step in restoring the integrity of our democracy. The REFUSE Act would:

  1. Prohibit election spending by foreign-influenced corporations (through connected PACs) and 501(c)(4) organizations at two thresholds of foreign ownership interest/funding:
    1. 20% for foreign nationals;
    2. And a more strict 5% if those foreign parties are directly connected to foreign governments.
  2. Modernize and tighten the reporting requirements of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and expand the Department of Justice’s FARA enforcement authority.

Download a section by section summary of the bill here: PDF iconREFUSE Act SBS.pdf

PDF iconREFUSE Act SBS.pdfPDF iconREFUSE Act one-pager.pdf

Kaptur simultaneously introduced two related pieces of legislation: 1) a Constitutional Amendment nullifying Citizens United v. FEC and 2) the Fairness in Political Advertising Act. The latter would require television broadcasting stations to make available free advertising broadcast time qualified political candidates in statewide or national elections, to level the playing field for viable candidates trying to compete against campaigns bankrolled by special interests.

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