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Public Statements

Disclose Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I believe we have a number of speakers who are coming over from the caucus lunch to discuss the upcoming vote on the DISCLOSE Act. I wanted to take the time that is available until a speaker shows up to continue to report the previous support for disclosure from our colleagues and from other Republican officeholders and officials.

I think where I left off in my previous listing was Senator Lisa Murkowski, who wants Citizens United reversed and has said:

Super PACs have expanded their role in financing the 2012 campaigns, in large part due to the Citizens United decision that allowed unlimited contributions to the political advocacy organizations.

She said:

However, it is only appropriate that Alaskans and Americans know where the money comes from.

My friend Senator Jeff Sessions, a ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, at one point said:

I don't like it when a large source of money is out there funding ads and is unaccountable. ..... To the extent we can, I tend to favor disclosure.

Senator Cornyn said:

I think the system needs more transparency, so people can more easily reach their own conclusions.

Senator Collins has been quoted:

Sen. Collins ..... believes that it is important that any future campaign finance laws include strong transparency provisions so the American public knows who is contributing to a candidate's campaign, as well as who is funding communications in support of or in opposition to a political candidate or issue.

That is from the Hill.

Senator Scott Brown has said:

A genuine campaign finance reform effort would include increased transparency, accountability and would provide a level playing field to everyone.

Senator Tom Coburn has said:

So I would not disagree there ought to be transparency in who contributes to the super PACs and it ought to be public knowledge. ..... We ought to have transparency. ..... If legislators were required to disclose all contributions to their campaigns, the public knowledge would naturally restrain legislators from acting out of the current quid pro quo mindset. If you have transparency, you will have accountability.

As I reported earlier today, the Republican Senate support goes to people who have left the Senate as well. I would remark again on the extraordinary editorial written in the New York Times by Senators Hagel and Rudman.

House Speaker Representative Boehner has said:

I think what we ought to do is we ought to have full disclosure, full disclosure of all the money we raised and how it is spent. And I think sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Representative Eric Cantor, the majority whip, I believe, has said:

Anything that moves us back towards that notion of transparency and real-time reporting of donations and contributions I think would be a helpful move towards restoring the confidence of voters.

Newt Gingrich has called for reporting every single night on the Internet when people make political donations.

Mitt Romney has said that it is ``an enormous, gaping loophole ..... if you form a 527 or 501(c)(4) you don't have to disclose who the donors are.''

Well, this is a chance for our colleagues to close that enormous, gaping loophole their Presidential nominee has pointed out.

One of my favorite comments is by Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee said:

I wish that every person who gives any money [to fund an ad] that mentions any candidate by name would have to put their name on it and be held responsible and accountable for it. And it's killing any sense of civility in politics because of the cheap shots that can be made from the trees by snipers that you never can identify.

The cheap shots that can be made from the trees by snipers that you never can identify. Let me give an example of that.

I am going to read parts of an article from this morning's New York Times.

In early 2010, a new organization called the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity--

With a name like that, you know it has to be bad in this environment--

filed for nonprofit, tax-exempt status, telling the Internal Revenue Service it was not going to spend any money on campaigns.

Weeks later, tax-exempt status in hand as well as a single $4 million donation from an anonymous benefactor, the group kicked off a multimillion-dollar campaign against 11 Democratic candidates, declining to report any of its political spending to the Federal Election Commission, maintaining to the I.R.S. that it did not do any political spending at all, and failing to register as a political committee required to disclose the names of its donors. Then, faced with multiple election commission and I.R.S. complaints, the group went out of business.

The editorial continues:

``C.H.G.O.'s story is a tutorial on how to break campaign finance law, impact elections, and disappear--the political equivalent of a hit and run,'' Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics ..... wrote in a new report.

A cheap shot from the trees by a sniper you can never identify, and to this day no one has ever identified the $4 million donor.

I see the Senator from New Jersey. I am delighted to yield to him so he can make his remarks.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, at least--at least--10 Republican Senators are on record supporting transparency and disclosure in election spending. Some of them are very significant leaders on the Republican side.

Senator Mitch McConnell said this:

I think disclosure is the best disinfectant.

Senator John Cornyn, head of the Republican campaign operation, said this:

I think the system needs more transparency so people can more easily reach their own conclusions.

Other Senators, colleagues, and friends come from States that require disclosure in election spending. The States they represent know this is wrong. The arguments against this bill are few. Some of those arguments are false. Others don't hold water. Huge majorities of Americans--Republicans, Democrats, and Independents--support cleaning up this mess.

More than 700,000 Americans signed up as citizen cosponsors of this bill in the last few days. The actual number, I believe, is 721,000. But then that ran up against this: outside political spending that went from 1 percent to 44 percent, not disclosed in the last election. And these secret groups, such as Crossroads, with $76.8 million, and the majority of the money that they spend is secret money--that has changed the debate. But those who are out of the need for that secret money, such as former Republican Senators Rudman and Hagel, are clear:

A bill is being debated this week in the Senate, called the DISCLOSE Act of 2012. This bill is a well-researched, well-conceived solution to this insufferable situation. We believe every Senator should embrace the DISCLOSE Act of 2012. This legislation treats trade unions and corporations equally and gives neither party an advantage. It is good for Republicans and it is good for Democrats.

Most important, it is good for the American people. I urge my colleagues on the Republican side to follow the example of their former colleagues Senator Rudman and Senator Hagel; and I pledge to Senator Murkowski that we take her comments very seriously. She has cast a sliver of daylight. I intend to pursue that sliver ardently to work through this problem.

I will conclude by also complimenting Senator McCain. He believes there is a benefit for unions in here that I do not see, which I disagree exists. But certainly he has a record of courage and determination on campaign finance that entitles his judgment to our respect. I look forward to working with both of them.

I yield back our time.

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