Amy in the News
Klobuchar Calls for Senate to Swiftly Pass Legislation Increasing Transparency in Political Spending by Special Interests
July 16, 2012
Thank you. I want to thank the senator from New Hampshire for her great leadership in this issue. I am a cosponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, and I really hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will strongly reconsider their vote today so that we could actually go to a vote on this bill so that we can actually debate this bill.
By using a filibuster to basically stop debate on something that is so important that we are getting calls on from all over Minnesota, people asking me in two parades yesterday what is going on, what are these ads that we're seeing on TV, and they have a right to know who's paying for them, what these groups are called, no matter what their names are, and who's paying for those groups and who's paying for those ads.
That just isn't happening today. I'm here to focus today on the public's distrust of our political process and our need to ensure that the American people have a government that's responsive to their concerns.
Free and fair elections in which every American has a right to make their voice heard at the voting booth are really the cornerstone of our democracy. Yet in the wake of the Citizens United decision, a flood of special-interest spending has undermined the faith of the American people and our elections. By loosening the rules on campaign spending, Citizens United has led to a torrent of negative ads funded not by concerned citizens participating in democracy but by unlimited special-interest money.
I don't think we thought we'd see the day with all the reforms that had been made where just one billionaire can write a $10 billion check or a $20 billion check. While candidates under the system we have to report every contribution of $200 and over and you have to painstakingly do your reports so the world can see them and your constituents can see them online and so reporters can see them. You have literally hundreds of millions of dollars that are being spent where you cannot tell where that money came from. That is just not right.
This type of campaign spending moves the focus of our elections away from the real issues facing American families. But, worse, this unprecedented involvement of special interests in our political process has convinced the American people that there is something wrong with how we conduct elections, and there is.
Americans can see the increased role that special interests and even individual billionaires are playing in politics, heightening their suspicions that Washington works only for the powerful. I hear constantly from people of my state who believe, justifiably, that the more money outside groups spend -- secret money that they're spending on these campaigns -- the less that their voices are heard.
We cannot continue to allow faith in our democratic process to be eroded by the secretive influence of outside money. That is why I'm a cosponsor of the DISCLOSE Act. The DISCLOSE Act heeds the wisdom of Justice Louis Brandeis that sunlight is the best disinfectant and will bring accountability and transparency to the special-interest money that's inundating our elections and inundating the airwaves.
The act requires that certain corporations, unions, section 527 political groups, and so-called super pacs declare their campaign spending above a certain level. The act will ensure that Americans can find out the sources of funding for advertising that they seek. Most importantly, it will prevent special interests from hiding behind the curtain as they attempt to influence our elections.
And by setting the reporting threshold at $10,000, this carefully crafted act that we just voted to go ahead with and unfortunately were blocked by a filibuster, this carefully crafted act ensures small businesses and other organizations will not be unduly burdened and that only significant political players will have to report their spending.
I know some people oppose the DISCLOSE Act on what they call first amendment grounds. But this bill doesn't limit free speech in any way. I don't agree with the notion that contribution limits and other restrictions on campaign spending are a threat to free speech. But even if you were to accept that argument, this bill does nothing to restrict free speech. It does not contain any limits on contributions or spending or make any changes to our campaign finance system, as much as I think we need to do that. I think the best way to do that is a constitutional amendment.
But that's not what we're talking about today. We're talking about a simple bill called the DISCLOSE Act which will ensure more transparency so you know what billionaire is spending how much money in your state on the ads that you're seeing on TV.
In reality, it is a modest bill in comparison to the size of the problem, but it is a first step toward bringing some sensibleness back to the elections. This bill simply ensures that the public has access to information about the funding behind television ads and other election materials.
In fact, even the majority opinion in Citizens United discussed the constitutionality and important benefits of disclosure. The opinion itself in Citizens United said this. It said, "The first amendment protects political speech, and closure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages." So the Supreme Court actually anticipated that Congress, in this decision that I don't agree with, but they even anticipated that Congress might put some disclosure rules into place. But today we were blocked from doing that.
Our campaign finance laws already require he that many individual contributions, as I noted, be made public. I see no harm in holding outside groups and outside individuals to the same level of accountability.
Finally, this should not be a partisan issue. Senators in both parties have been leaders on campaign finance reform, as everyone knows, Senator McCain and Feingold championed the most significant reforms in many years, and this bill is much less dramatic than those reforms.
I ask my colleagues to reconsider their vote. Our democracy literally depends on this. We have to know who's spending the money so we can figure out why they're spending the money so people will understand the true intent behind these ads. They can't do it if they don't have the information, if someone is putting a curtain over their head so they can't see anything but the noise on the screen. They need to know what's behind it. Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.
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