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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. HAGAN. Mr. President, I too echo the comments of the Senator from Colorado, and I thank the Senator from Rhode Island for bringing this bill forward and for putting together what the American people expect from people who donate to campaigns.

Today, I join my colleagues, as I did 2 years ago, to discuss the state of campaign finance and reflect on what I think is a dark cloud that has been cast over our Nation's election system.

The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United created a watershed effect in our elections process. The decision eviscerated decades of campaign finance law that was in place for the purpose of making sure the American people, not special interests, decided our elections. It was 2 years ago that I expressed my deep concern that this ruling would weaken the voice of the American people in elections, and I am afraid my fear and the fears of many others have come true.

Since the ruling, many political operatives have established nonprofit proposed social welfare organizations under 501(c)(4) of the Tax Code. These groups utilize a loophole in the Tax Code to receive huge, secret donations intended solely to influence political campaigns rather than promote the social welfare of our citizens.

In 2006, outside groups spent $69 million on political campaigns. Only 1 percent, $690,000 in 2006, of that funding came from undisclosed sources.

By comparison, in 2010, the amount of outside group spending on political campaigns skyrocketed to $305 million, and the sources of 44 percent of that money were not disclosed. So in 4 years' time, the amount of undisclosed dollars grew exponentially from 1 percent to almost half of all outside political spending.

This year, outside group spending is projected to rise at an astounding rate, and we are certainly seeing it now. Of the $140 million raised by super PACs thus far, 82 percent has come from secret donors. That is shocking, and we know it is growing.

In North Carolina, the story is no different. Last week, the Charlotte Observer reported that ``more than any congressional battle in the south ..... North Carolina's 8th District has become a magnet for money.'' And that is outside money. In that same article, the newspaper reported that only two other districts in the entire country have seen more outside spending than the $1.6 million poured into the eighth congressional district. The two candidates themselves have only spent $1 million through the end of June.

Let me point out that this level of spending is for a runoff primary election in a mostly rural part of North Carolina. I cannot imagine what the general election race will look like.

The level of secret, anonymous money influencing our political elections is breathtaking. America's campaign finance process should and must be transparent. Of course, every American, including the wealthiest among us, has the right to have his or her voice heard, but those spending huge amounts of money to influence elections should not hide their activities. Information on who is funding political advocacy should be available to the public so voters can ultimately make fully informed decisions.

The DISCLOSE Act would take a step in the right direction to ensure accountability in our system. The bill would institute comprehensive disclosure requirements on corporations, on unions, and other organizations that spend money on Federal election campaigns. By increasing the transparency of campaign spending by these groups, the DISCLOSE Act seeks to prevent unregulated and unchecked power over our elections by a handful of wealthy corporations and individuals.

Right now, the voices of ordinary Americans--of ordinary North Carolinians--are being drowned out by secret money. North Carolina deserves better and our country deserves better. That is why I am cosponsoring the DISCLOSE Act. The voices of North Carolinians--not the voices of a few wealthy companies and individuals--should determine the outcome of our elections.

I will continue to work with my colleagues here in the Senate to protect the integrity of the elections process. We came very close last time, with 59 votes. We were one vote away. I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join this effort to achieve a fair and transparent elections process.

I yield the floor.


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