House Dems push for oversight hearing on campaign finance

House Democrats are requesting an oversight hearing on the “increasing role and influence” of undisclosed funds in the American electoral system, particularly within super-PACs.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the Chairman of the Committee on House Administration, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), Democratic members wrote the committee “should exercise its jurisdictional oversight on behalf of the American people” regarding campaign finance reform.

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According to committee members Reps. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), two 2010 Supreme Court cases — Citizens United v. FEC and Speechnow.org v. FEC — “dramatically changed the campaign finance landscape under which we had operated for decades.

“As a result, a select group of wealthy individuals and corporate donors have funneled millions of undisclosed dollars into our elections by means of the independent-expenditure-only committees known as ‘Super PACs,’” they added.

More than 300 super-PACs have registered with the Federal Election Commission, committee Democrats continued. In 2011, 10 super-PACs were responsible for an estimated 72 percent of all super-PAC spending.

The three House members also called into question certain contributions made to super-PACs supporting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bids. Some such contributions were made from corporations created shortly before the time of donation and dissolved shortly thereafter, “simply to disguise the source of the money.

“This type of unseemly transaction calls out for a hearing and we hope that you will schedule one promptly,” they wrote to Lungren.

Wednesday’s letter comes on the heels of last week’s introduction of the DISCLOSE 2012 Act put forth by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

The legislation aims to increase transparency in campaign expenditures by amending the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, providing for additional disclosure requirements for super-PACs, corporations, labor organizations and lobbyists.

The three Committee on House Administration Democrats were amongst the 105 cosponsors of the bill, which was referred to the committee on Feb. 9.

In the letter to their committee chairman, Brady, Lofgren and Gonzalez noted the relative success of similar legislation in the previous Congress, which passed the House but failed to pass the Senate.

“It is time for this committee to continue that important work,” they wrote. “Allowing outside groups to significantly influence our elections through anonymous donations sells America short.

“This Congress promised more transparency and has yet to deliver,” the committee Democrats concluded. “Lets start now with a hearing on DISCLOSE 2012.”