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Mr. McCONNELL. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. BENNETT. I would be honored.
Mr. McCONNELL. If I recall correctly, this is not the first election under which independent groups have been extraordinarily active in advertising in political campaigns. In fact, I recall quite precisely that independent groups aligned with the other side of the aisle, according to those who keep the statistics on this, spent twice as much in 2006 and a similar amount in 2008 as outside groups that might be typically aligned with Senators such as Bennett and McConnell. Where was the outrage a couple cycles ago?
I would ask my friend, did Citizens United in any serious way change the landscape, in any event?
Mr. BENNETT. I thank the leader for his question, and the leader's recollection is entirely correct. I remember when we passed the Campaign Finance Act we were told this will get big money out of politics. I remember the first elections fought after the passage of that bill saw the greatest amount of spending we have ever seen in American history, and the amount of spending has only gone up.
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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, for the past 2 days, Democratic leaders have demonstrated once again their total lack of interest in the priorities of the American people.
At a time of near double-digit unemployment and skyrocketing debt, Americans would like to see us focus on jobs and the economy. Yet for the past 2 days, Senate Democrats have forced us to return once again to a debate we have already had on a bill the Senate has already rejected--a bill that focuses not on creating jobs for the American people but with saving the jobs of Democratic politicians in Washington.
That is what this debate is about. Our friends on the other side would have the public believe this bill is about transparency. It is not. Here is a bill that was drafted behind closed doors, without hearings, without testimony, and without any markups--a bill that picks and chooses who gets the right to engage in the political process and who does not; a bill that seeks, in other words, to achieve an unlevel playing field; a bill that is back on the floor for no other reason than the fact that our friends on the other side have declared this week ``politics only'' week in the Senate.
The only thing transparent here is the effort this exercise represents to secure an electoral advantage for the Democrats. So this is a completely distasteful exercise.
At a time when Americans are clamoring for us to do something about the economy, Democrats are not only turning a deaf ear, they are spending 2 full days working to silence the voices of even more people with a bill that picks and chooses who has a full right to political speech.
Let's face it, what our friends on the other side want is what they have always seemed to want: more government control. They want the government to pick and choose who gets to speak in elections, and how much they speak. That is why they are also pressing at the same time for taxpayer-funded elections--something the assistant majority leader called for once again just yesterday.
So Democrats have spent the past year and a half taking over banks, car companies, insurance companies, the student loan business--you name it--and now they want the taxpayers to foot the bill for their campaign ads as well.
Earlier today, the House Committee on House Administration marked up a bill that would stick taxpayers with a bill for House elections nationwide. Think of that: taxpayer money for attack ads, for buttons, for balloons and bumper stickers.
Have they no shame? Have they no shame? Our cumulative debt now the size of our economy, and they want to spend tax dollars on political campaigns.
I mean, even if they do not agree with the principled arguments against this kind of an effort, I would submit that in a time of exploding deficits and record debt the last thing the American people want right now is to provide what amounts to welfare for politicians.
Think about it. One recent estimate puts the annual cost to taxpayers of funding every Federal election at about $1.8 billion each year. That is $1.8 billion more that taxpayers would have to shell out than they already are. For what? For what? For politicians to throw campaign events and run ads that taxpayers may not even agree with or which they find downright outrageous.
One of the groups that supports this scheme calls it ``an incredibly good deal for taxpayers.'' Well, I strongly suspect that most taxpayers would not share that view. Americans want us to stop the wasteful spending. Another $1.8 billion on balloons and bunting is not their idea of a step in the right direction.
So why are Democrats doing this? Why are they proposing taxpayer financing of political campaigns and the DISCLOSE Act right now, at a time when Americans want them to focus on jobs and the economy?
I think it is pretty obvious. This is pure politics--pure.
After spending the past year and a half enacting policies Americans do not like, Democrats want to prevent their opponents from being able to criticize what they have done. After spending a year and a half enacting policies the American people do not like, they want to silence the voices of critics of what they have done. They want to prevent their critics from speaking out.
So here we are, 2 days debating this partisan, political, dead end bill that does not do one thing to help the economy, reduce the deficit, or create a single job.
Americans deserve a lot better. Americans are speaking out. But focusing on this bill shows that Democrats in Washington still are not listening. So, once again, I will be voting no on this legislation, and I encourage my colleagues to do the same.
I yield the floor.
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