Last year, in an effort to prevent the abuse of anonymous companies by malign actors, the U.S. Congress passed the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA). The CTA requires certain legal entities, like corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), to provide information about their beneficial owners—that is, the people who actually own or control the entity—in order to make it more difficult to operate anonymous shell companies for criminal purposes. Pursuant to the CTA, beneficial ownership information must be submitted to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and maintained in a centralized database.
Much of the fight for beneficial ownership transparency was spearheaded by anticorruption advocates, who emphasized the ways in which foreign kleptocrats and other corrupt officials use anonymous companies to hide their stolen wealth. But the CTA’s beneficial ownership transparency measures will be helpful in fighting another kind of corruption, one closer to home: the corrupting influence that so-called dark money—spending by undisclosed donors to influence election outcomes—has on the integrity of U.S. elections and American political sovereignty.