News Releases

Senator Murray Urges Transparency in Campaign Financing

Jan 26 2012

Murray: We need to overturn Citizens United and hand our democracy back to our citizens



(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor about the critical need to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which for the past two years has given special interest groups and the wealthiest Americans a giant megaphone to drown out the voices of citizens across America. She called on anyone who believes special interest groups and big corporations shouldn’t be able to spend unlimited money influencing our elections without any accountability or transparency to support this effort.   

Throughout the history of our great nation, ordinary citizens have had a strong voice in our electoral process,” Senator Murray said. “The Citizens United decision is a threat to this critical foundation of our democracy, and two years later, it is clearer than ever that we cannot allow it to stand.”

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

“The Citizens United ruling has given special interest groups and the wealthiest Americans a giant megaphone to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens across America.”

“This disastrous decision opened up loopholes in our campaign finance laws big enough for the biggest corporations and wealthiest Americans to drive truckloads of anonymous money through, and as we’ve seen over the last two years, that’s exactly what they’ve done.”

If Citizens United is allowed to stand, these Americans are going to be drowned out and beaten down by the onslaught of unlimited and anonymous money special interests can throw into races to support the candidates who agree with them--candidates who will be good for their own bottom line—and who won’t threaten the loopholes, subsidies, or tax breaks their financial backers profit from. This is wrong, and it needs to end.”

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Madam President, last Saturday was the two-year anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that caused our democracy to take a giant step back from the values our citizens hold dear. 

“It was a ruling that overturned decades of campaign finance law and policy.

“That allowed corporations and special-interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of their money influencing our democracy.

“And that blew the door wide open for foreign corporations to spend their money on elections right here in the United States.

“Madam President—this disastrous decision opened up loopholes in our campaign finance laws big enough for the biggest corporations and wealthiest Americans to drive truckloads of anonymous money through.

“And as we’ve seen over the last two years, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

“Tens of millions of dollars have flooded our electoral process – with no transparency—no accountability— and no way for the American people to know where it’s coming from or who would benefit from the policies being advocated for.

“Madam President—this is wrong—and it’s not the way elections in America are supposed to work.

“We are a country that believes very strongly that every voice deserves to be heard.

“If you have a good idea, you can go out and talk about it.

“If your fellow citizens agree, they can stand with you— they can tell their friends and neighbors— and they can vote for you or support your issue.

“That is one of the foundations of our great democracy—and it’s being subverted. 

“The Citizens United ruling has given special interest groups and the wealthiest Americans a giant megaphone to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens across America.

“To spend unlimited money—and to do it all with no transparency, and no accountability.

“Madam 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, Madam 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 barrage of anonymous negative ads.

“And Madam President, my story is not unique.

“In every election, across the country—ordinary citizens make the decision to get involved in the political process.

“They lace up their shoes, hit the streets, and make their case to their fellow citizens.

“They ask their friends and neighbors for financial support to help them spread their ideas— and they publicly release the names and contributions of everyone who supports their campaign.

“These men and women come from different walks of life, and they may each have their own reasons for running.

“But for most of our nation’s history—they had a shot. They could compete.

“Ordinary Americans, who wanted to get involved in public service to improve their communities, their states, or their nation— they could do that, because their voices could be heard.

“But Madam President—if Citizens United is allowed to stand, these Americans are going to be drowned out and beaten down by the onslaught of unlimited and anonymous money special interests can throw into races to support the candidates who agree with them….

“…The candidates who will be good for their own bottom line—and who won’t threaten the loopholes, subsidies, or tax breaks their financial backers profit from.

“This is wrong—and it needs to end.

“Last session, I was proud to support legislation, the DISCLOSE Act, that would shine a bright spotlight on this process and force special interest groups and CEOs to take responsibility for their ads— the same way candidates do.

“That bill would have strengthened overall disclosure requirements for groups attempting to sway our elections.

“It would have banned foreign corporations and special interest groups from spending in U.S. elections, made sure corporations are not hiding their election-spending from their shareholders…

“…Limited election spending by government contractors to make sure taxpayer funding is never used to influence an election…

“…And banned coordination between candidates and outside groups on advertising—so corporations and special-interest groups can never ‘sponsor’ a candidate.

“Madam President—this bill was blocked here in the Senate last session—but we can’t give up.

 “We need to overturn Citizens United and hand our democracy back to our citizens.

“Anyone who believes special interest groups and big corporations shouldn’t be able to spend unlimited money influencing our elections without any accountability or transparency should support this effort. 

“Anyone who believes foreign entities should have no right to influence U.S. elections should stand by our side.

“And anyone who agrees with Justice Brandeis that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’ should drop their opposition and work with us to get this done.

“Madam President, throughout the history of our great nation, ordinary citizens have had a strong voice in our electoral process.

“The Citizens United decision is a threat to this critical foundation of our democracy, and two years later, it is clearer than ever that we cannot allow it to stand

“Thank you. I yield the floor.”