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Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I rise in strong support of the DISCLOSE Act.
It is important for Americans to know where the money is coming from that supports the political ads appearing on their television screens during election season.
This bill is a much needed response to the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United--a decision that is resulting in corporate money drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court overruled decades of legal precedent when it decided that corporations cannot be restricted from spending unlimited amounts in Federal elections.
The decision was astounding, not just because it was a display of judicial activism but also because it defies common sense for the Supreme Court to conclude that corporations or even labor organizations are citizens, as you or I am, in the eyes of the law.
As Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his dissent, ``corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires ..... they are not themselves members of `We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.''
In the aftermath of the Citizens United decision, special interest groups known as super PACs with innocuous names like ``American Crossroads'' and ``Restore our Future'' are primed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2012 election.
According to OpenSecrets.org, Super PACs have raised $246 million in secret
money so far in the 2012 election cycle--and we still have 113 days until the election during which that total may double or even triple.
The New York Times recently reported that secret groups have accounted for two-thirds of all political advertising spending this year.
Unlike funds given directly to candidates and political parties, which get reported to the Federal Election Commission and are available for the public to review, funds given to super PACs are secret, leaving voters with no knowledge of who is behind attack ads against political candidates.
Right now the rules require that individuals who give $200 or more to a candidate must submit detailed information about their identity, their address, and their occupation. But Citizens United says that if you give $2,000, $2 million, or $20 million to a super PAC, you don't have to disclose a thing.
Former member of the Federal Election Commission Trevor Potter said individuals ``can still give the maximum $2,500 directly to the campaign--and then turn around and give $25 million to the Super PAC.''
At a minimum, voters in a democracy deserve to know who is financially supporting candidates for public office.
Editorial boards in California and across the country recognize that disclosure and transparency are essential for the integrity of our democratic system.
The Sacramento Bee writes that ``reasonable people can disagree on whether corporations should be able to donate to campaigns, or whether the size of donations should be capped. But there should be no debate about whether donations should be open and readily accessible to the public.''
The Los Angeles Times writes that ``there is no cogent argument against maximum disclosure. Nor is there any First Amendment argument for secrecy ..... If those who seek to influence elections don't have the courage of their convictions, Congress must act to identify them.''
The San Jose Mercury News writes that ``since the Supreme Court made it all but impossible to regulate corporate influence on campaigns, the only thing left is requiring swift and thorough disclosure.''
And that is exactly what the DISCLOSE Act does.
It requires super PACs, corporations, and labor organizations that spend $10,000 or more for campaign purposes to file a disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours of the expenditure. The organization must also disclose the sources of all donations it receives in excess of $10,000. The disclosure must also include a certification that organization's spending is in no way coordinated with a candidate's campaign. These are carefully targeted reforms to ensure that the American people are informed during the electoral process.
Outside spending on our elections has gotten out of control in the post-Citizens United world created by the Supreme Court.
Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate, who gave $20 million to a super PAC to prop up the Presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich, told Forbes Magazine: ``I'm against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections, but as long as it's doable, I'm going to do it.''
A super PAC affiliated with House Republican majority leader Eric Cantor raised $5.3 million in the third quarter this year. Adelson is responsible for providing $5 million of the total.
The super PAC affiliated with Mitt Romney, ``Restore our Future,'' has raised $61 million so far. Most of this money came from just a handful of individuals.
During the 2012 Florida GOP Presidential primary, Romney super PACs ran 12,000 ads in that state alone.
A New York Times analysis of donations to Romney super PACs found sizeable amounts from companies with just a post office box as a headquarters, and no known employees.
A USA Today analysis of GOP super PACs through February 2012 found that $1 out of every $4 donated to these Super PACs was given by five individuals.
A US PIRG/Demos study found that 96 percent of super PAC contributions were at least $10,000 in size, quadruple the $2,500 donation limit individuals are allowed to give specific candidates.
The Center for Responsive Politics found that the top 100 individual super PAC donors make up only 4 percent of the total contributors to super PACs, but they account for more than 80 percent of the total money raised.
According to Politico, the Koch Brothers and their companies plan to spend $400 million on the 2012 election, which would be more than Senator John McCain raised during his entire 2008 run for President.
A super PAC called ``Spirit of Democracy America'' spent $160,000 in support of a primary candidate in California's 8th Congressional District. The super PAC has no Web site and provided no details prior to the primary election to voters in the district about who was behind their expenditures. The super PAC accounted for 64 percent of all the outside money spent on the race.
A 21-year-old Texas college student used a multimillion dollar inheritance from his grandfather to spend more than $500,000 on television ads and direct mail in a Kentucky congressional election, helping his handpicked candidate win the primary in an upset.
The American people are tired of these stories, and they are tired of big money in politics.
Overwhelmingly, and on a bipartisan basis, they support disclosure laws and contribution limits.
Because of the massive influence super PACs are having on elections, earlier this month the USA Today issued a frightening prediction about this fall's election.
They write that ``the inevitable result is that come November, voters in many closely contested races will make their decisions based on a late flood of ads of dubious credibility paid for by people whose names and motives are unknown.''
The American people deserve to have a government that is always of the people, by the people, and for the people.
The DISCLOSE Act will help restore the voice of the people.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
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