Lofgren and Johnson Introduce Judicial Ads Act

Sep 30, 2020
Press Release

 

Washington, DC – Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Chairman Henry C. “Hank” Johnson (D-Ga.) today introduced the Judicial Ads Act, legislation to combat dark money in judicial nominations by increasing accountability and transparency in advertisements related to Senate confirmation of federal judicial nominations. 

Among other reforms, the Judicial Ads Act would require the disclosure of who is financing advocacy for or against judicial nominees and protect public confidence in the independence and integrity of the federal courts. 

“Federal judges must only be beholden to the Constitution.  The rise in dark money to support and oppose the nominations of Supreme Court Justices, appellate judges, and district court judges politicizes this process.  It carries long-term consequences for the American people and the courts themselves,” said Rep. Lofgren, Chairperson of the Committee on House Administration.  “While federal law requires political campaigns to disclose their contributions and include a disclaimer on their advertisements, it excludes groups backchanneling the judicial nomination process and funneling millions of dollars into attack ads.  It is estimated that groups could spend nearly $40 million on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court – and it’s past time for greater regulation and transparency.  The American people deserve to know who is spending millions of dollars to support and oppose the confirmation of judges to lifetime appointments.  This legislation will maintain the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as a fair arbiter of justice.” 

“Judges and our courts should serve the cause of justice, not corporate interests,” said Rep. Johnson, Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet.  “The increasing politization of our courts and the secret money being pumped into judicial nominations is corrosive to the integrity of our courts and our judicial nominee process.  That’s why I’m proud to introduce the House version of the Judicial Ads Act with Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a measure that would bring much-needed transparency and accountability when it comes to unlimited spending on advertisements related to federal judicial nominations.  Now more than ever, as unprecedented amounts of money are about to be unleashed during the latest nomination process, the Judicial Ads Act will help citizens understand who is trying to buy influence in the courts.” 

The Judicial Ads Act would:  

  • Require groups that spend more than $50,000 in a calendar year on advertisements related to federal judicial nominations to disclose donors who have given more than $5,000 to the group in that and the preceding calendar year; 
  • Require groups to disclose information about each of their advertisements related to federal judicial nominations, including the name of the nominee the advertisement is about; 
  • Require advertisements related to federal judicial nominations to contain disclaimers making clear the identity of the group funding the advertisement; and  
  • Ban foreign nationals from funding judicial nominations-related advertisements. 

For the last two vacancies, one group alone—the Judicial Crisis Network—spent at least $17 million on ads attacking Judge Garland and supporting Justice Gorsuch, and another $12 million on ads supporting Justice Kavanaugh through his confirmation. The source of the funding for these ads is secret.  

The Judicial Ads Act is endorsed by End Citizens United//Let America Vote Action Fund, Democracy 21, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Campaign Legal Center, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. 

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate, S. 4183. 

Click here for the text of this legislation. 

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Issues: 
Congress Number: 
116th Congress