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Murray on Senate Floor: DISCLOSE Act Puts Washington State Families Above Special Interests, Corporations

Jul 27 2010

Republicans block bill that would force corporations and special interest groups to disclose their campaign spending

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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor to strongly support the “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections” (DISCLOSE) Act. This bill closes loopholes opened by the Citizens United Supreme Court case that allows corporations and special interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of their profits supporting or opposing candidates in elections without disclosure or accountability. The DISCLOSE Act was blocked by Senate Republicans when it failed on a 57-41 vote to get the 60 votes it needed to move to the floor.

“The Citizens United ruling has given special interest groups a megaphone that they can use to drown out the voices of citizens in my home state of Washington and across the country,” said Senator Patty Murray in her speech today. “The DISCLOSE Act would tear that megaphone away and place it back in the hands of the American people, where it belongs.”

The DISCLOSE Act would enhance disclosures and disclaimers in campaign spending by corporations and special interest groups. It would ban foreign governments from spending money to influence U.S. campaigns. And it would make sure shareholders and voters are fully informed of corporate campaign spending.

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Mr. President, I come to the floor today to speak in strong support of the DISCLOSE Act, which would close the glaring campaign finance loopholes opened up by the Citizens United ruling.

“Mr. President, this Supreme Court ruling was a true step backwards for our democracy.

 “It overturned decades of campaign finance law and policy. It allowed corporations and special-interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of their money influencing our democracy. And it opens the door wide open for foreign corporations to spend their money on elections right here in the United States!

“The Citizens United ruling has given special interest groups a megaphone they can use to drown out the voices of citizens in my home state of Washington and across the country.  And the DISCLOSE Act would tear that megaphone away and place it back in the hands of the American people, where it belongs.

“Mr. President, this is a very personal issue for me. When I first ran for Senate in 1992, I was a long-shot candidate with some ideas and a group of amazing and passionate volunteers by my side. These volunteers cared deeply about making sure the voices of Washington state families were represented.  They made phone calls and went door to door—and they talked to families across the state who wanted more from their government. 

“Well, Mr. President—we ended up winning that grassroots campaign because the people’s voices were heard loud and clear.

“But to be honest, I don’t think it would have been possible if corporations and special interests had been able to drown out their voices with an unlimited barrage of negative ads against candidates who didn’t support their interests.

“So that is why I support the DISLOSE Act. I want to make sure no force is greater in our elections than the power of voters across our cities and towns.  And no voice is louder than citizens who care about making their state and country a better place to live.

“The DISCLOSE Act helps preserve this American values in a number of ways.

“First of all, it shines a bright spotlight on the entire process.

“The DISCLOSE Act will make corporate CEOs and special interest leaders take responsibility for their ads.

“When candidates put campaign commercials up on television, we put our faces on the ad and tell every voter that we approve the message.  We don’t try to hide what we are doing.  But right now, corporations and special interest groups don’t have to do that. They can put up deceptive and untruthful ads with no accountability—and no ability for the public to know who is trying to influence them. 

“The DISCLOSE Act also strengthens overall disclosure requirements for groups attempting to sway our elections.

“Too often, corporations and special interest groups are able to hide their spending behind a mask of front organizations—because they know voters would be less likely to believe the ads if they knew the motives behind their sponsors.

“The DISCLOSE Act ends that—it shines a light on this spending and makes sure voters have the information they need so they know what they can trust.

“This bill also closes a number of other loopholes opened up by the Citizens United decision.  It bans foreign corporations and special interest groups from spending in U.S. elections. It makes sure corporations are not hiding their election-spending from their shareholders. It limits election spending by government contractors to make sure taxpayer funding is never used to influence an election.  And it bans coordination between candidates and outside groups on advertising—so corporations and special-interest groups can never ‘sponsor’ a candidate.

“Mr. President, the DISCLOSE Act is a common-sense bill that should not be controversial.

“Anyone who thinks voters should have a louder voice than special interest groups should support this bill.

“Anyone who thinks foreign entities should have no right to influence U.S. elections should support this bill.

“Anyone who agrees with Justice Brandeis that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’ should support this bill.

“And anyone who thinks we shouldn’t allow corporations like BP or Goldman Sachs to spend unlimited money influencing our elections should support this bill.

“Mr. President, every two years we have elections across this country to fill our federal elected offices.

“Every two years voters have the opportunity to talk to each other about who they think will represent their communities best.

“And every two years it is these voices of America’s citizens that decides who gets to stand here representing them in the United States Congress.

“Mr. President, this is the basis of our democracy—and it is exactly what the DISCLOSE Act aims to protect.

“So I am proud to support this bill. And I urge every one of my colleagues to vote to move this bill forward.

“Thank you. I yield the floor.”