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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3309, Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, I thank my good friend from Florida for yielding the time to me, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, this rule provides for consideration of H.R. 3309, the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act. There may be beneficial provisions in the underlying legislation to make the FCC's processes more transparent and more efficient.

I do suggest that the FCC has made great strides in this regard under the leadership of Chairman Genachowski, and certainly more can be done. But the fact remains that my friends on the other side of the aisle have squandered important opportunities in this process to walk the walk and talk the talk.

Now, last night an amendment was offered by my good friend and colleague, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, to require FCC disclosure of spending on political advertisements, which was opposed in committee but made in order to go forward today.

Recent Supreme Court rulings, especially the Citizens United case, have opened the door for unlimited spending by wealthy entities aiming to influence the electoral process. These individuals, organizations, and corporations have the financial resources to reach millions of Americans through cable, broadcast television, the radio, and other media.

Unfortunately, Americans do not yet have the right to know who is paying for these efforts. Under current law, Americans have no way of knowing whether an advertisement urging them to vote for a certain candidate or support certain legislation is being done at the behest of someone who stands to make a lot of money from that candidate or the bill.

That's no way to run a country. That's no way to hold an election. And that's no way to run a government.

Since Citizens United, our government is less like a democracy and more like a mystery. I firmly support the Eshoo amendment and ask all of our colleagues to do so. It aims to provide some clues by requiring the disclosure of any individual or corporation that contributes $10,000 or more for the purpose of airing political programming in an election cycle.

This amendment is modeled after the DISCLOSE Act, sponsored by my friend and colleague, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, of which I am a proud cosponsor. Both these measures educate voters by disclosing who is donating money to influence the electoral process. It is as simple as that: transparency, accountability, and democracy.

Yet some of my Republican colleague friends continue to be baffled as to why the American people will want to know who is trying to influence them. Last night in the Rules Committee, my good friend from Georgia (Mr. Woodall) was indicating his motions regarding this; and I said to him what I say to all of our colleagues and to all Americans, that the day somebody shows up with $500, you would be interested to know, if they are opposed to you, who they are.

So the question remains: Why do some Republicans oppose these efforts now?

Madam Speaker, we know full well about some of the biases that some Republicans have in favor of the wealthiest Americans. When they're not trying to eviscerate social safety net programs--as I suggested in the Rules Committee, and in 40 minutes we will be taking up the proposed budget that does just that--to make room for tax cuts for the well off in our society, it appears that Republicans are eager to allow the richest Americans to hijack the electoral process. Because that is what is about to happen, and it is and will be a hijacking.

When vast sums of money are used to influence the democratic process, the voices of those who do not have such resources get drowned out. When that influence is allowed to remain in the shadows, suddenly we find that the wealthiest interests in this country are the ones driving the bus, the train, the plane, and the rest of us do not know where the stops are.

This amendment, along with the DISCLOSE Act and similar efforts, aims to provide Americans with the basics of who is spending how much on what. It does not impose any new obligations on broadcasters or providers; it does not hold broadcasters or providers liable for inaccurate information; and it does not take action with respect to posting this information online. This is a simple disclosure requirement. It benefits all Americans. It is good for our democracy.

Quite frankly, I think that a commendable thing occurs when many of the amendments are made in order. In this particular instance, I'm especially pleased that my colleagues made the Eshoo amendment in order.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I appreciate my colleague for asking. I was hoping that Mr. Bishop from New York would be here, but in light of the fact that he is not, I'm prepared to close.

Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. If Mr. Bishop does arrive, then perhaps I would use some of my time to yield to him.

We all know that this legislation is never going to pass the Senate, and so this exercise remains just that, an exercise.

Republicans claim to be in favor of reducing the size of government, but this bill will require the FCC to hire 20 additional staff at a cost of $26 million over 5 years just to handle all the additional work created.

Rather than focus on stimulating the economy, funding infrastructure investments, and improving our democracy, my friends on the other side insist on devoting time and energy in a pursuit that is never going to go beyond this Chamber.

Rather than support transparency and our democratic process, my friends on the other side want to shield the best off in our society and corporations from having to disclose their financial influence on the political process. And rather than work with Democrats to craft comprehensive, bipartisan legislation that can pass the House and Senate, Republicans would rather see their partisan bills die than allow a compromise measure to live. I would say that I'm appalled, Madam Speaker, but this kind of thing seems to happen all the time around here.

Madam Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to the rule to provide that, immediately after the House adopts this rule, it will bring up H.R. 14, the House companion to the bipartisan Senate transportation bill and to discuss our proposal, but before that, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Bishop).


Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and to defeat the previous question. I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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