On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, ruled that prohibiting corporations and unions from making independent expenditures in political campaigns was unconstitutional. This ruling is frequently described as permitting corporations and unions to donate to political campaigns, but these claims are incorrect. The ruling did remove the previous ban on corporations and organizations using their funds for direct advocacy, including endorsing for or against specific candidates, actions that were previously prohibited.
The result of Citizens United was that "Super PACs" spent millions on TV ads in the 2012 election, advocating both issues and candidates. The DISCLOSE Act attempts to reduce the negative effect of Citizens United by requiring disclosure of independent expenditures made by advocacy groups.
Source: S3369/HR4010 12-HR4010 on Feb 9, 2012
Full disclosure of campaign spending.
Yarmuth co-sponsored DISCLOSE 2013 Act
Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections Act of 2013 or DISCLOSE 2013 Act:
Source: H.R.148 13-HR0148 on Jan 3, 2013
- Amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to redefine the term "independent expenditure" as an expenditure that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, or is the functional equivalent of express advocacy because it can be interpreted only as advocating the election or defeat of a candidate, taking into account whether the communication involved mentions a candidacy, a political party, or a challenger to a candidate, or takes a position on a candidates, qualifications, or fitness for office.
- Expands the period during which certain communications are treated as electioneering communications.
- Prescribes disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, and campaign-related disbursements.
- Requires any communication transmitted through radio or television to include an individual or organizational
disclosure statement, together with:
- the Top Two Funders List of the persons providing the largest and second largest aggregate payments of $10,000 or more for a radio communication, and
- the Top Five Funders List of the five persons providing the largest aggregate payments of $10,000 or more for a television communication.
- Repeals the prohibition against political contributions by individuals age 17 or younger.
- Requires a covered organization which submits regular, periodic reports to its shareholders, members, or donors on its finances or activities to include in each report, in a clear and conspicuous manner, the information included in the statements it has filed about campaign-related disbursements the organization has made during the period covered by the report.
- Requires semiannual reports on election campaign contributions by registered lobbyists for any independent expenditure of $1,000 or more, including electioneering communication.
Matching fund for small donors, with debate requirements.
Yarmuth sponsored Fair Elections Now Act
Congressional Summary:Fair Elections Now Act--Amends 1971 FECA with respect to:
- 500% matching payments to candidates for certain small dollar contributions;
- a public debate requirement;
- establishment of the Fair Elections Fund and of a Fair Elections Oversight Board;
- remission to the Fair Elections Fund of unspent funds after an election civil penalties for violation of contribution and expenditure requirements;
- Requires all designations, statements, and reports required to be filed under FECA to be filed directly with the FEC in electronic form accessible by computers.
Statement of support for corresponding Senate bill: (Sunlight Foundation) Now we bring you the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, a bill that should probably be the least controversial of all. S. 375 would simply require senators and Senate candidates to file their public campaign finance disclosure reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission,
the way House candidates and presidential candidates have been filing for over a decade. A version of the bill has been introduced during every congress starting in 2003 (!) yet it has been blocked repeatedly, a victim of political football.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has introduced the most recent version, which would ensure that paper Senate campaign finance reports are a thing of the past. But even with 50 bipartisan cosponsors, the bill faces an uphill battle. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, has repeatedly prevented the bill from coming to the Senate floor. We won't be deterred--as long as McConnell continues to block the bill, we'll continue to highlight that his intransigence results in delayed disclosure of vital, public campaign finance information, not to mention wasting $500,000 in taxpayer money annually. Eventually, we'll win.
Source: S.375/H.R.269 14_H269 on Jan 15, 2013
No photo IDs to vote; they suppress the vote.
Yarmuth signed Voting Rights Amendment Act
Congressional Summary:Amends the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with respect to the requirement that a federal court retain jurisdiction for an appropriate period to prevent commencement of new devices to deny or abridge the right to vote. Expands the types of violations triggering the authority of a court to retain such jurisdiction to include certain violations of the Act as well as violations of any federal voting rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. [This bill would ban requiring photo IDs in order to vote].
Opponents recommend voting NO because:Sen. Bob Dole (on related bill from 2007, whether to add an amendment allowing photo ID): I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast
and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.
Proponents support voting YES because:Sen. Dianne Feinstein (on related bill from 2007): If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote [for Dole's amendment] this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election].
Source: H.R.3899/S.1945 14_H3899 on Jan 16, 2014
Establish "My Voice Voucher" small campaign contributions.
Yarmuth co-sponsored Government By the People Act
- A refundable tax credit of 50% of congressional House campaign contributions, to be known as "My Voice Federal" contributions.
- Establishes the Government by the People Oversight Commission, which will launch a pilot program and select 3 eligible states to operate a voucher pilot program.
- Provide each qualified individual during the election cycle, upon his or her request, with a "My Voice Voucher" worth $50 (in either paper or electronic form).
- Authorizes the individual to submit the My Voice Voucher to qualified federal election candidates, allocating a portion of its value in $5 increments.
- Prohibits a certified participating candidate from establishing or controlling a leadership PAC (political action committee).
Proponent's argument in favor (by Reps. Nancy Pelosi & John Sarbanes): Citizens United shook the foundation of our democracy: the principle that it is the voices of the people, not the
bank accounts of the privileged few, that determine the outcome of our elections and the policies of our government. Most members of Congress would leap at the chance to fund their campaigns without having to turn to a familiar cast of big donors and entrenched interests. Today, that's virtually impossible. But we can and must break the grip of special interests on our politics: rally around H.R. 20.
Opponent's argument against (The Examiner): The proposed legislation seeks to undo the Citizens United v. FEC ruling which has been a thorn in the side of progressives ever since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that political spending was "a form of protected speech under the First Amendment." Although the "Government by the People Act" innocently claims to want to get big money out of politics, the real goal is to smash the Tea Party. The fear that conservative groups would have access to funds typically granted to progressive groups and unions was too much to bear.
Source: H.R.20 14-H0020 on Feb 5, 2014
Public financing of federal campaigns by voter vouchers.
Yarmuth co-sponsored H.R.20 & S.366
- Allow a refundable tax credit of 50% of cash contributions to congressional House campaigns, to be known as "My Voice Federal" contributions.
- Select three states to operate a voucher pilot program.
- Provide, upon request, a "My Voice Voucher" worth $50.
- Authorizes the individual to submit the My Voice Voucher to qualified federal election candidates, allocating a portion of its value in $5 increments.
- Permits an individual to revoke a My Voice Voucher within two days after submitting it to a candidate.
- Establishes the Freedom From Influence Fund in the Treasury [for 6-to-1 matching funds for the vouchers].
- Allows taxpayers to designate overpayments of tax for contribution to the Freedom From Influence Fund.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA:Rep. Sarbanes: Big money warps Congress' priorities and erodes the public's trust in government. This bold new legislation returns voice and power back to
the American people:
- Empower everyday citizens to fuel Congressional campaigns by providing a My Voice Tax Credit.
- Amplify the voices of everyday Americans through a 6-to-1 match.
- Prevent Super PACs from drowning out small donor-backed candidates.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY:(Bill Moyers, Feb. 19, 2015): This citizen engagement strategy, particularly when used to court small donors, is not without its critics. Small donors, at least in the current system, often tend to be political ideologues. That trend leaves many asking: won't moving to small donors just empower extremists? Sarbanes counters, if Congress changes the political fundraising rules, they will also change the calculus for "the rational small donor who right now isn't going to give $25 because they've figured out that it's not going to matter." The prospect of a 6-to-1 match might very well impact how those less ideologically extreme potential donors think about political giving.
Source: Government By the People Act 15_H020 on Jan 21, 2015
No separate contribution limits for party activities.
Yarmuth co-sponsored H.R.154
Congressional Summary: To repeal the Federal Election Campaign provisions which established separate contribution limits for contributions made to national parties to support Presidential nominating conventions, national party headquarters buildings, and recounts.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: Rep. KILMER. This legislation repeals the last-minute changes to campaign finance law that were tacked into a 1,600-page bill to fund the government. As a result of this legislation, the wealthiest donors can now each contribute more than $750,000 per year to a political party, more than seven times the previous cap. Worst of all, these changes were buried in a bill with no hearing and no public debate. This bill protects the interests of "We the People" and make sure that the wealthiest donors don't get another chance to flood our elections with even more money and to undermine our democracy.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY:
(Washington Post article, Oct. 9, 2014): The FEC said that contributions to presidential convention committees will not count against the annual limit on donations to national parties--allowing wealthy donors to double their support for party operations. The FEC's move came in response to a rare joint request by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, which argued that they needed a new avenue to raise funds for the events after a federal law eliminated public funding for the conventions. But critics of the decision said the FEC created an end-run around federal contribution limits. Under the current rules, individuals can give up to $32,400 per year to a national party committee. Now, donors will be able to give an additional $32,400 each year to a separate committee set up to finance the quadrennial convention. That means that a single donor could give nearly $130,000 to support a party and its convention in a two-year election cycle.
Source: Close the Floodgates Act 15_H154 on Jan 6, 2015
Statehood for the District of Columbia.
Yarmuth co-sponsored H.R.317
Congressional Summary: Sets forth procedures for admission into the United States of the state of New Columbia.
- Requires the Mayor of the District of Columbia to submit to the voters propositions for statehood and adoption of a State Constitution, and issue a proclamation for the first elections to Congress of two Senators and one Representative of New Columbia.
- Requires the President to issue a proclamation announcing the results and admitting New Columbia into the Union.
- Provides for conversion of District government offices to state offices.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (DCist.com, Sept. 2014): The Argument Against: Congress does not have the authority to grant statehood to D.C.; the 23rd amendment, which gave D.C. three electoral votes, would have to be repealed before statehood was granted. Washington is a wholly urban, one-industry town, dependent on the federal government far in excess of any other state.
Moreover, with Congress no longer having authority over New Columbia but dependent on it, New Columbia could exert influence on the federal government far in excess of any other state.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: [Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC; the District of Columbia has one representative to Congress and no Senators; Rep. Holmes can introduce bills but her vote does not count]: This 51st state would have no jurisdiction over the federal territory or enclave that now consists of the Washington that Members of Congress and visitors associate with the capital of our country. Those would remain under federal jurisdiction. The New Columbia Admission Act was the first bill I introduced in 1991. Statehood is the only alternative for the citizens of the District of Columbia. To be content with less than statehood is to concede the equality of citizenship that is the birthright of our residents as citizens of the United States.
Source: New Columbia Admission Act 15_H317 on Jan 13, 2015
Automatic voter registration for all citizens.
Yarmuth co-sponsored H.R.12 & S.1088
- Require each state to make available official public websites for online voter registration.
- Authorizes automated voter registration and establishes same day registration, and voter registration of individuals under 18 years of age.
- Declares that the right to vote shall not be denied because that individual has been convicted of a criminal offense.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: (BrennanCenter.org): Too many Americans go to vote on Election Day only to find their names are not on the voter rolls--often, wrongly deleted. The US is on the verge of a new paradigm for registering voters: automatic, permanent registration of eligible voters, which would add up to 50 million eligible voters to the rolls.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (Gov. Christie's veto message on the "Democracy Act", Nov. 2015): Christie called a provision establishing automatic voter registration that requires
New Jerseyan to opt out a "government-knows-best, backwards approach that would inconvenience citizens and waste government resources for no justifiable reason." Automatic voter registration would have added 1.6 million people to the state's voter rolls.
Source: Voter Empowerment Act 15-H12 on Mar 19, 2015
- TN-8: I have voted in every election federal, state or local that I chose to. If people want to vote there is nothing but laziness preventing them from doing so today! Regarding photo ID's you have one to drive, buy alcohol, and go to the doctor.
- AL-2: This bill is so general that anyone that is alive, has lived, or will live in this century will be able to vote as well as non-Americans, pets, people without voting rights, and some people multiple times.
- TN-3: This bill will surely bring about fixed voting in favor of the one who can cheat the most. How about having a voter photo card and a test to see if they are capable of voting and not just voting for whoever promises them more free stuff.
Signed term limit pledge: 6 years House; 12 years Senate.
Yarmuth signed pledging 6-year term limit
Organizational Self-Description: U.S. Term Limits, the nation's oldest and largest term limits advocacy group, announced that 14 new signers of its congressional term limits amendment pledge have been elected to the 114th Congress. The group includes five new senators, eight new House members and one House incumbent who signed the pledge for the first time this cycle. The pledge calls for members to co-sponsor and vote for a constitutional amendment limiting House members to three terms (six years) and Senators to two terms (12 years). The USTL President said, "The American people are fed up with career politicians in Washington and strongly embracing term limits as a remedy. Gallup polling shows that 75% of Americans support term limits."
Opposing legal argument: [ACLU, Nov. 7, 2014]: In U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (May 22, 1995), the Court ended the movement to enact term limits for Congress on a state-by-state basis. The Court held that the
qualifications for Congress established in the Constitution itself could not be amended by the states without a constitutional amendment, and that the notion of congressional term limits violates the "fundamental principle of our representative democracy 'that the people should chose whom they please to govern them.'"
Opposing political argument: [Cato Institute Briefing Paper No. 14, Feb. 18, 1992]: Several considerations may explain political scientists' open hostility to term limitation:
Source: Press release from U.S. Term Limits 16-USTL on Nov 8, 2014
- Political scientists were instrumental in promoting the professionalization of legislators.
- They are cynical about the attentiveness, general knowledge, and judgmental capacity of the average voter.
- They are committed to the conservation of leadership.
- They perceive attacks on professional politicians as a threat to their own self-proclaimed professionalism.
- And political partisanship may encourage them to oppose term limits.
Holiday on election day; revamp for easier voting access.
Yarmuth voted YEA For the People Act of 2019
- This bill expands voter registration and voting access, makes Election Day a federal holiday, and limits removing voters from voter rolls.
- The bill provides for states to establish independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions.
- The bill also sets forth provisions for sharing intelligence information with state election officials, and supporting states in securing their election systems, and establishing the National Commission to Protect U.S. Democratic Institutions.
- This bill addresses campaign spending, by expanding the ban on foreign nationals contributing to or spending on elections; and expanding disclosure rules.
- This bill establishes an alternative campaign funding system [with] federal matching of small contributions for qualified candidates.
- The bill also requires candidates for President and Vice President to submit 10 years of tax returns.
Opposing argument from the Heritage Foundation, 2/1/2019: HR1 federalizes and micromanages
the election process administered by the states, imposing unnecessary mandates on the states and reversing the decentralization of the American election process. What HR1 Would Do:
- Seize the authority of states to regulate the voting process by forcing states to implement early voting, automatic voter registration, same-day registration, online voter registration, and no-fault absentee balloting.
- Make it easier to commit fraud at the polls through same-day registration, as election officials have no time to verify the accuracy of voter registration.
- Degrade the accuracy of registration lists by automatically registering individuals from state databases, such as DMV.
- Cripple the effectiveness of state voter ID laws by allowing individuals to vote without an ID and merely signing a statement in which they claim they are who they say they are.
Legislative outcome: Passed House 234-193-5 on 3/8/19; received with no action in Senate thru 12/31/2019
Source: Supreme Court case 19-S949 argued on Jan 3, 2019
Page last updated: May 31, 2020