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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, lest we get totally off track and before the Senator from Alabama leaves the Chamber, I wish to thank him and congratulate him. The system works when Democrats and Republicans come together. The Senator from Alabama and I have worked on many issues together, including the Nation's national security. Just recently, the Senate showed how it can work together on the RESTORE Act in the Gulf of Mexico when we added a provision directing the fine money to be imposed by a judge in New Orleans and redirected that fine money to come back to the people and the environment and the critters of the gulf. That passed in this Chamber 76 to 22--a huge bipartisan vote.

I have had the privilege of working with the Senator from Alabama on many other issues, including the times the two of us led the Strategic Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee on some of the Nation's most significant things, such as our overall strategic umbrella protecting this country. There again, it was Democrats and Republicans working together.

So to hear a lot of the rhetoric, someone outside the Senate would think we are totally in gridlock. That has not been the case. However, we come to a point of gridlock again because of the Senate rules requiring 60 votes to shut off debate so we can go to this bill called the DISCLOSE Act.

What the DISCLOSE Act does is common sense. It is common sense to say, if someone is going to affect the political system by giving money to influence the votes at the end of the day in an election year, all the campaign laws say they have to disclose that money, and but for a 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision--which is contorted at best and is way over the edge at the very least--its ruling says that because of freedom of speech, outside the political system, one can make advertisements, one can speak freely; in other words, by spending money, buying ads, and one does not have to disclose that. Oh, by the way, that whereas the campaign finance law prohibits in Federal elections corporations from donating, this contorted Supreme Court decision says that can be corporate money and it doesn't have to be disclosed.

That is what we are seeing in abundance in that kind of political speech right now in all these attack ads, and these attack ads are going rapid fire. We look at who it is sponsored by. It is not sponsored by the candidate; it is sponsored by some organization that has a high-sounding name, but we don't know where the money is coming from.

This piece of legislation in front of us yesterday got 53 votes, and we need 7 more votes to cut off the debate just to go to the bill. This vote is coming at 3 o'clock. We are not going to get it. It is going to be the same result--53 to 47. Why? Because these outside, unlimited sources of funds that are not disclosed are affecting elections and they are achieving the result and we know it. If we put enough money into TV advertising, one can sell a box of soap, whatever the brand is. That is the whole theory behind this. The undisclosed donors giving unlimited sums elect whom they want, and that is going to completely distort the political system.

We start from a basis of old Socratic ideas, going back to Socrates; that in the free marketplace of ideas, the crosscurrents of those ideas being discussed, that out of it truth will emerge and the best course of action will emerge. It is upon those ideals that this country was founded; this country, wanting a representative body such as this to come forth and freely and openly discuss the ideas and hammer out policy. Yet what we are seeing is that in bringing those elected officials here, by electing them by overwhelming advertising from unlimited sources, those elected representatives will be beholden to those particular sources and will not have an independence of judgment, will not have the Socratic ability in the free marketplace of ideas to hammer out the differences of ideas and achieve consensus in order to determine the direction of the country. So the very underpinnings of the country are at stake.

Why is this being fought--something that ought to be like a motherhood bill. One is for disclosure of those giving money to influence the political system, just like all the Federal candidates have to disclose; and, oh, by the way, are limited in the amounts of contributions to each candidate. What is such common sense is being thwarted. If this legislation were to pass and they had to disclose who is giving the money, do we know what: Most of them would stop giving it, and they would have to operate under the normal campaign finance laws which say to report every dime of a contribution and they are limited as to the amount they can give and the candidate is limited as to the amount they can receive. That is fair, but it is more than fair. It is absolutely essential to the functioning of the electoral system in order to elect a representative democracy.

That is what is at stake, and that is what we are going to vote on again. Unfortunately, we know what the outcome of the vote is going to be: 53 in favor of disclosing and 47 against, and we are not going to know who is giving all this money.

I can't say it any better. It is old country boy wisdom that says this ought to be as easy as night and day, understanding the difference. Yet that is what we are facing.

I yield the floor.


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