Senate Calendar

Monday, July 16, 2012

Casey, Schumer, Begich, Landrieu

Disclose Act (S. 3369)

Jul 16 2012

Senator Casey: (10:37 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "I think when people see what happened in the last couple of years, they're very concerned that we've got a system now that has too much of this secret money, too much money in the shadows without the sunlight providing the disinfectant. And when you consider what we're doing now and compare it to what's happened over the last generation, they have disclaimers at the bottom of the advertising and now in the more recent period, the candidate himself or herself has to identify themselves by name and say that they paid for the ad. This legislation doesn't even get to that. It really focuses on the basic question of disclosure. So that a citizen can say, okay, well, this organization made this assertion in an advertisement, and I'm going to find out who they are so I can make a judgment about the advertisement before I vote. Very simple. It's how our system works. People go to the public square. They have a debate. There's a lot of sunlight, a lot of disclosure, and the debates are freewheeling and they're tough, but they're in the open, and they comply with that precept that I started with. They're open to every inspection, and, therefore, the chances of suspicion are lessened, because everything is out in the open. That's all this is. Providing a measure or a degree of sunlight into that process, into that public square. So, if all these generations of reform have told us - which I think they have told us, and I know this is true in Pennsylvania - that more disclosure, more sunlight, more scrutiny is going to lead to better elections and better participation, I don't think we should run counter to that history. So, I'm not trying to assert that everything else about our elections is perfect. We still have a lot of other reforms we could institute. But at least we can give people some measure of confidence that when they hear an assertion in that public square, that they are going to know where it comes from, they're going to know the origin of that statement, they're going to know the bias or point of view, and they're going to make a judgment about that before they exercise their right to vote. We should allow people that opportunities, to maybe be a little suspicious, but it is hard to be secure in your knowledge about information if you don't know where it comes from, you don't know who is the real speaker, and you don't know their point of view."

Senator Schumer: (10:45 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "Disclosing contributions is only fair and only right and only American and only in keeping with our democracy and our constitution. And I think the reason so few people have shown or no people have shown on the other side is that the reason that they're not supporting us is not out of conviction but out of short-term political advantage, because obviously the SuperPACs, large, large multimillion-dollar contributions are coming mostly from the other side and may indeed benefit them in the election, but in the long run, it's bad for our democracy. In the long run, I would argue it's bad for the Republican party to shy away from not only debating this issue but supporting this bill, because the issue of disclosure is so simple and so easy and so right. The issue of disclosure is one that's now wracking the presidential campaign. You can run but you can't hide. The argument of disclosure will in a sense chase you down and beat you, so you might as well join in now and do the right thing The level of disclosure under our present law isn't just inadequate, it's laughable. The voters deserve to know the truth, ugly or not, of who are behind these SuperPACs. If wealthy special interests want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in our government, well, then they should pay their fair share of taxes rather than fund candidates who will give them special tax breaks paid for by middle-class Americans. Yet, because of the flawed Citizens United ruling, corporations that can vote in our elections are trying to buy the recognize dollar outcomes that benefit them, and it's all in secret. Our solution is simple. The Disclose Act simply restores transparency and accountability. There are many of us who would limit what people can give and how they could give it."

Senator Begich: (11:02 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The bill requires any donor to spends $10,000 or more to file a simple disclosure report with the federal election commission. Not complicated. Every group is treated the same ... This includes 501(c)(4)'s, 527 organizations, they only have to disclose money spent on elections, and only from individuals giving more than $10,000. Under this bill, money given to these groups for other purposes does not need to be disclosed ... If you give $10,000 or more for that you are political attack ads that distort the truth, the American people deserves to know who you are. The bill won't force groups to release their members' lists ... This bill is not an unconstitutional reaction to free speech. The Disclosure Act puts no restrictions on speech and is fully consistent with the Supreme Court ... The bill is narrowly tailored and very, very simple. It doesn't prevent any special interest groups or any corporation from donating any amount they want. All we're asking is, just tell us who you are."

Senator Landrieu: (11:20 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "If you're contributing to the political process $10,000 or more, you should make yourself known ... Here we have half of this chamber running out the door after they basically vote to keep contributions secret. What is it that they're ashamed of? I mean, what is it that they're trying to hide? If they're proud of who they're supporting, if they believe that in the causes to which they are investing, why not let people know? I am really alarmed at the stubbornness and the position that our friends on the other side of the aisle have taken to not want to let their constituents know who's contributing and for what reason. So I believe that transparency clearly is in jeopardy tonight over this Disclose Act. And I hope we can have another vote and persuade more people to join you to open up, let the sunshine in, let people see what is actually going on The Disclose Act is a necessary piece of legislation to respond to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. This legislation, as we said, does not limit the amount of money that outside interest groups can spent on campaign expenditures. It simply requires disclosure."

Jul 16 2012

Senator Coons: (9:04 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "Transparency, as we all know, is critical for free and fair elections, for democracy to function. Because the people of this country, the voters, the constituents, those whom we serve and those who hire and fire all who serve them in federal and state and local offices, need to know who they really represent, who is funding their campaigns, what goals they'll pursue in office and whether or not the ends really serve their interest The integrity and the fairness of our elections is at the heart of American democracy. It is in some ways the proudest legacy of the founding fathers and in my view, a beacon to the rest of the world. A difficult, a regular part of the modern electioneering is campaign ads. Many of us spend a huge amount of our time raising the money and delivering the content to connect with our constituents through television. I'm blessed to represent a small state, just roughly 800,000 or so, so we actually get to campaign door to door, to go door knocking to meet people in person in my campaign. Still television ads play a very important part. In other larger states folks will very often never meet in person the candidates for offices in the House or the Senate or for president. And television ads dominate the whole campaign election process. No one likes campaign ads, but they are a part of our politics and an effective and a sadly powerful part as well. For most of our modern political history, voters at least knew who the ads were coming from. The candidates and the parties that supported them, and could make judgments accordingly. If you thought an ad was too nasty, you could vote against the candidate who ran it. That's the whole point. Forcing us as candidates to own our ads, to say I'm Chris Coons, and I approved this ad. We all know as candidates who stood before our electorate who it feels to put your personal name, your face to an ad that might be hitting just a little too hard, and that pulls us back from sometimes overreaching. But what we're here to talk about tonight is the whole new world that's been unleashed by a Supreme Court decision. In my view, the basic right of every American to free and fair elections has been promised has been compromised by a new flood of tens of hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy individuals, from corporations, from shadowy national special interest groups that since the supreme court with citizens united opened floodgates to unlimited secret campaign activities, threaten to overwhelm many the fundamental trust of our constituents and the transparency so essential to our democracy."

Senator Whitehouse: (9:25 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The point that I'd like to echo is that the importance of American democracy and of clean American elections does indeed extend beyond our borders There is a reason that presidents have talked about our nation as a city on the hill. There is a reason that presidents have described our nation as a lamp raised up in the darkness, that the glow from what we accomplish lights the world. There is a reason that the hymn "America" talks about how our alabaster cities gleam. There is not much gleam on those alabaster cities tonight, not after this vote. There is a lot of mud on the walls of those cities, and it's going to get worse unless we pass this vote, and people get it."

Senator Pryor: (9:29 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The current state of affairs is we have unlimited money coming into the political system and secret money coming into the political system. That is a bad combination. That is not good for the public's welfare. It's not good for the average voter and the average citizen. Again, we have a first amendment right to free speech. There's no doubt about that. And we should. And we should zealously and jealously protect that. But in the political situation we have today, if I have a person in Arkansas that wants to give a hundred dollars for a campaign, say a local congressional campaign, he wants to give a hundred dollars, well, somebody else can come along - it may be an individual, may be a corporation, we don't know who it is - they can give a million dollars or they can give more. It can be unlimited. But I just want to use round figures so we can talk about this in a concise way. Hundred dollars from the individual - actually the voter in the state that's actually voting in the election, and a million dollars from who knows where. Well, I would say this, I talked about it earlier, I want to lend my voice to this. I want that voter to have a voice, and I don't want that outsider or that secret money or whoever's offering that to have a voice that's 10,000 times louder than what that person in Arkansas has. It would be like right here. If I was here speaking today and talking about me being for the Disclose Act and I turn around and there were 10,000 other people crammed in this chamber talking about the same act but talking against the act, whose voice is going to be heard by the public? It's not going to be mine. And that's the problem with the current state of affairs ... There's no comparison at all. It's unfair. It drowns out and dilutes our first amendment right that's protected in the constitution. Last pointed I want to make on this unlimited money and then I want to make my final point here in just a second. But on the unlimited money, you need to ask yourself, why are they doing this? Why are they giving this money? Is it out of the goodness of their hearts? No. That's not it. That's not it. Elections have consequences. They want to influence the election because they want the consequence to be that they have influence, they have power, they have control. That's what this is about. We talk about it in terms of 30-second ads and negative ad what this is about ultimately is who makes decisions in this country. Is it the general public? Is it elected officials who are here because sometimes they go through bruising campaigns to get here but they're here and they're trying to put the public interest first? Or are those decisions going to be made by people whose elections were bought lock, stock and barrel with unlimited and secret money? That's what's at stake today. That's what's at stake tonight."

Senator Franken: (9:41 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "When the Supreme Court upended a hundred years of law with Citizens United, it yanked the microphone away from average Minnesotans and turned it over to a handful of millionaires and billionaires and corporations intent, as Senator Pryor said, on controlling the outcome of our elections and controlling the decisions that are made that affect the men and women, children in my state. Now a single person writing a check for a million dollars or $10 million or $100 million can drowned out the voices of everyone else. And they can do so in total secrecy. We have heard about a handful of millionaires and billionaires that have written fat checks to bankroll presidential candidates, but what is most terrifying about this is that we only know about those people because they decided to let us know. For every billionaire who tells us he's writing a check to a candidate, there are probably 10 or a hundred or a thousand corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals who are writing similar checks in secret. Even one of the ones we know about because he decided to let us know, now he says he's also going to give secretly Americans may not like it - I sure don't - but the Supreme Court has ruled. And at least for now, Citizens United is here to stay. The Supreme Court isn't final because it's right. It is right because it's final. So we need to accept that absent a constitutional amendment, Congress can no longer limit corporate contributions or campaign contributions to outside or so-called independent groups. And, as much as we may want to, we can't stop corporations and ultra wealthy individuals from flooding our elections with massive amounts of money. We can't stop it. But the Supreme Court said we can shine a light on the shadowy interests behind those unprecedented contributions. We can force these co contributions, organizations, and ultra-wealthy individuals to disclose."

Senator Blumenthal: (10:07 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The Disclose Act of 2012 is a step in the right direction, and I hope a no-brainer for Congress. The people of this country are losing their representation in government to special interests and the funders of political campaigns, and to make matters worse, we don't even know who are stealing our elections. I'm listening to those people who are watching. They are watching what's happening in this country and they are losing faith because they feel Washington is failing to listen, to listen to them, and millions of other hard-working families who are struggling to put food on the table, stay in their homes, find jobs and feel that the system is working for them and listening to them, as much as it is the people who can afford to give to political campaigns, let alone who can afford to give tens of millions. If we listen to the people in America, and I am listening to the people of Connecticut, we will pass the Disclose Act of 2012. All that it requires is openness and disclosure and accountability. It places no limits on what can be contributed, on what can be done, on what can be said. It is completely consistent with citizens united. I'm not here to re-litigate that case. The Supreme Court in the bullock decision recently indicated it won't re-litigate that case any time soon. It invalidated a Montana state law that prohibited corporations from making independent expenditures. We're not going to re-litigate the question of whether a corporation is a citizen, whether any of these entities can contribute or in what amounts. The Disclose Act of 2012 is completely consistent with Citizens United I would favor a constitutional amendment that would enable some limits consistent with the constitution. Money is corrosive. Too much money in the system corrupts. But again, we're not here to set limits. We're here to deal with secrecy, with anonymity, secrecy and anonymity not only corrode, they destroy the essence of our democracy, and by opening the system to the sunshine that will eliminate that secrecy, we are helping to restore trust and faith in government and we would be showing that Washington will listen to the American people, including the people of Connecticut."

Senator Reed: (10:21 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "What should be important is this quality of speech, not the quantity and, frankly, there's a direct correlation between the amount of money you have today and the quantity of your speech on the media. That's just the reality of paid advertising, which dominates political campaigns. But this decision because of Citizens United I think has been turned on its head. Now those with the greatest resources, the most money, have been given a disproportionate advantage, and they've been given that advantage without the need to stand up to be accountable, to be known, to disclose what they've done, what they stand for, where the money's coming from, basic. And that anonymity is corrosive. By allowing corporations and unions and not-for-profits to unleash the full power of their treasury funds in explicitly advocating for the election or defeat of candidates in federal and state elections in the name of protecting or promoting free speech, I think the Supreme Court missed the mark. Missed the mark about the centrality of an individual's vote and the substance of a campaign being about ideas, not about derogatory advertising, not about anything else except the issues. That's the ideal. That's what our founding fathers were hoping for and, indeed, I think expecting. And that I think has been terribly distorted by this opinion. There's an interesting sort of situation going on here. In the attempt to create under Citizens United what the Supreme Court I expect it was hoping to do, create an atmosphere in which speech is free, they've created a situation in which speech is no longer free, effective speech is no longer free. It actually comes with a very high cost and goes to the person who is the highest bidder. That's not free speech, not effective free speech. It's purchased speech. And if our elections are going to be decided not by free speech but by purchased speech, they'll be won always by the highest bidder, by the person with the biggest wallet, the person who's willing to spend as much as necessary to prevail. And it will raise and it does raise the specter of, is this about the future of the country or is this about the narrow self-interest of someone who's willing to invest a great deal of money into a particular race? And I think most people would conclude it's probably about the narrow self-interest of someone who invests a great deal of money in a race. Simply put, I think Citizens United is deeply flawed."

Durbin, Stabenow, Bennet, Hagan

Disclose Act (S. 3369)

Jul 16 2012

Senator Durbin: (8:27 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "When they addressed Citizens United, it was strictly from a legalistic academic viewpoint, and the decision reflected it because it was such a gross departure from where we had been as a nation. A presidential candidate may argue that corporations are people. Our Supreme Court in Citizens United said that the views of corporations should be treated like the views of people, like the free speech that every American is guaranteed under our constitution. And with that just twist of a phrase, they have literally changed the face of politics in America in a negative fashion. I would say the Citizens United case from the Supreme Court was as negative on the political process of America as the Dred Scott decision by the same Supreme Court was on the social fabric of America. What they have unleashed with citizens united is a force we have never, ever seen before in American politics. It is the force of anonymous secret donors, people, oligarchs, millionaires and billionaires who are determined to impose their political will on the body public and will spend whatever it takes to achieve it. We are seeing it all across the country. There's not a single contested race that these SuperPACs haven't arrived and spent $5 million, $10 million, $12 million already in negative advertising across this country, most of it unaccounted for. Now, the Disclose Act, which brings us together this evening, is very basic in that people who give more than $10,000 must disclose their identity. It applies to labor unions, corporations, everyone. It's across the board. Now, disclose used to be one of the tenets, one of the pillars of the republican position. They used to say, don't limit what a person can give as long as they disclose it in a timely fashion. Well, they amended their position after Citizens United and lopped off the end of it. Don't limit what a person can give, period. They don't call for timely disclosure anymore. The disclose act does."

Senator Stabenow: (8:38 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "I strongly believe in the Disclose Act and think it's critical as step one. I think there's, frankly, much more that needs to be done even as we go forward to add to this. But this is a very important basic standard of transparency. If you spend $10,000 on ads trying to affect an election, people should know who you are. It's just as simple as that. And I think it's important for us to emphasize the fact that a majority of the Senate this evening voted for this bill. The reason we didn't pass the bill tonight is that the Republicans, colleagues on the other side of the aisle, are putting us in a situation where we have to reach 60 votes and, therefore, by not doing that, they are filibustering the bill. So they're blocking the bill. They're filibustering the bill. We have a majority. All we want is a vote, just give us a vote. If we had an up-or-down vote on this bill, this bill would have been passed. And I think it's incredibly important for everyone to understand that. It's not that we don't have the support. We have the votes ... What we know so far is that over half the money that's come in has been from 17 multibillionaires in our country. And when you think about that, it's pretty worrisome when the fact that 17 or 18 or 20 people in our country could decide to buy a form of government that works for them. That is certainly not a democracy, and I think that this bill is part of an effort that we are all working to achieve to really protect the basics of our democracy. It's not about making judgments for people about who they shall vote for, who they should support, how they should be involved in elections, but it is about making sure that we all know that the American people know who's spending the money so that each American can make their own judgment about the agenda of the people that are spending the money and whether or not it reflects their own agenda and their own values. So this is just simply about shining the light of day, opening up a process, transparency so that each of us can make our own judgments about who we choose to believe and not believe in this political process."

Senator Bennet: (8:52 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "As I listen to the debate, I also think people at home should know that this really is about a few actors in the country that have been allowed to spend wild amounts of money without saying who they are. This doesn't prevent them from spending the money. It simply says, they need to say who they are. And my sense, having spent time with people that are often asked to contribute to these campaigns, is that people that have the means to spend $10,000 on political activity, by and large, would actually like this disclosure requirement. And the reason they would like this disclosure requirement is so they can say to people that are trying to enlist them in distorting our politics, they're trying to have them pay for negative attack ads that they really don't agree with, they can say no. They could say, I don't want to sign up for that because I don't want to put my name on that. There's an enforcement mechanism here that I think virtually everybody in America would support, certainly people at home. In fact, I'd argue the only place in America that anybody would think that spending vast amounts of money by a really small group of people without them having to tell us who they are makes sense, and that's right here in Washington, DC, maybe some people will benefit from making the ads, and are paid to place the ads on television. But otherwise it is hard to find anyone that wouldn't think this wasn't in their interest to and certainly their children's interest."

Senator Hagan: (8:58 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "That 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 that 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. Our country deserves better."

Jul 16 2012

Senator Levin: (7:25 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The genius of our founding fathers was to establish a system of government in which the governed determined who represents them. Easy for us more than two centuries removed from their achievement to lose sight of just how remarkable that achievement was. They overturned untold centuries of human history during which those with wealth and power made the decisions and everyone else had little or no chance to influence how they were governed. The remarkable system the founders created has endured through war, crisis, depression and doubt, but we should not mistake that endurance for automatic permanence. Democracy requires that we maintain the vital connection between the people and their elected representatives. It must be the voters and not the influential few who choose our nation's leaders. If the people begin to doubt their central role in our government, it will be corrosive to democracy. In recent months, there has been reason for just such doubt. A Supreme Court ruling has opened our system to a flood of unlimited and secret special interest money. Inexplicably, a one-justice majority of the court decided in the Citizens United case that such unlimited, anonymous donations "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." Now, many of us believed from the moment that decision was handed down that the court's majority was badly mistaken, but events since that day have left little doubt. We have in recent months seen the dangerous consequences of the court's ruling, a deluge of unregulated funds that has threatened to upend the election campaign for our nation's highest office, a flood whose organizers vow will upend congressional campaigns across the nation this summer and fall. Through SuperPACs and through supposedly regulated but in fact actually unregulated nonprofit organizations, the conduits through which this flood of secret money flows, millionaires and billionaires already have made massive donations to fund a barrage of attack ads, drenching, smothering the voices of those who are to make the decisions in our democracy, the people."

Senator Shaheen: (7:38 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "Since the Supreme Court's decision two years ago in Citizens United, we've seen a new system of campaign finance emerge. Without limits on donations or limits on spending by outside groups like SuperPACs, we have been inundated with mostly negative political advertisements while candidates from both sides of the aisle struggle to raise more and more money just to keep up. Nearly $170 million has been spent so far in this election cycle by outside groups and that doesn't include how much the candidates themselves have sp spent. Just think what good we could do with that $170 million. The rising influence of donors and corporations is a problem, but the larger issue ... is the prevalence of secret money that is increasingly making its way into our campaigns. Millions of dollars of untraceable money has already been spent during this election. This spending is just unacceptable because there is too much at stake in this election for Americans who are struggling ... The truth is that middle-class families will not be able to catch a break unless we start by reducing the influence of special interests, of big donors and of corporate lobbyists, and that's what the disclose act is about and that's why it deserves our support Because our democracy is based on the free exchange of ideas and political speech should enjoy the highest level of protection. We should recognize that citizens always have the right to speak and be heard, especially on matters as important as who should represent them in Washington. That's not what the Disclose Act is about. It is precisely because we need to make sure citizens stay involved in the political process that we need this reform, because freedom of speech does not mean freedom of secrecy. Anonymous political speech by these organizations has no place in our democracy. Accountability, transparency, and credibility must be preserved in our political system."

Senator Tester: (7:47 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "I think I join most Montanans when I think is money spent influencing voters out to be transparent no matter where it comes from. That's exactly what the disclose act does. I don't think anyone here has heard complaints about too much transparency when it comes to TV's political ads. The Disclose Act requires any organization or individual who spends $10,000 or more on a political campaign to report that expense within 24 hours. No organization or type of organization exempted - this applies to SuperPACs, unions, and so-called issue advocacy organizations. That's not stifling free speech. That's responsibility. It is accountability. The Disclose Act strengthens our freedom to make decisions about our democracy and for folks in Montana, it is a chance for us to put our priorities back ahead of special interests'. For Montanans to make their own choices free from influence. And it's what the people of this nation deserve. And I urge all of my colleagues to vote for that transparency. A vote against the Disclose Act is a vote to allow secret, special interests to buy something that never should be ever for sale: our democracy and the power to make our own decisions with good information, full transparency, and full accountability."

Senator Nelson-FL: (7:53 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The money is coming from in order to run these kind of ads. I really have never seen this kind of situation that we are facing this year because this 5-4 Supreme Court decision has left the door open for these mega-donors to secretly finance and propel the flow of false information. So what's happening is these people and these organizations are donating so they can satisfy their own agendas, and they do so in their own self-interest to see that it's going to be protected in Washington. Now, the ones that are running ads in my state of Florida clearly don't care about Florida. They care about their own political agenda. And, in essence, they're trying to buy elections. And so, with this new crop of secretive donors, seemingly popping up new ones every day, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. And that's why we need a law like the Disclose Act. Voters need to know who's influencing the elections. We, as federal candidates, you have to know basically every dime of political contributions. And, oh, by the way, we are limited in the amount of contributions per contributor that we can take. And we can only take from people, not from a corporation. We are obviously seeing how distorted the implementation of this 5-4 Supreme Court decision is in this law, and that's why we've got to pass a bill to at least bring it out into the sunshine. In this Citizens United 5-4 Supreme Court decision, which allows these unlimited do donations, the Supreme Court even said in a part of the opinion that there is a need for transparency. Well, that's what we are trying to accomplish with this legislation. The Supreme Court in its opinion said that voters should be well-informed about the group or the person that is speaking in what they consider free speech. Well, that's exactly what this legislation intends to do. It informs the electorate. It makes sure that they have the information they need to judge the message for themselves. And this onslaught of unlimited, anonymous contributions puts everyday folks at risk of having their voices drowned out by the billionaires and the corporations. And if the campaign law says that the average person has to disclose their contribution to a candidate, well, why shouldn't the billionaires and the millionaires have to do so as well? It's a question of fairness. There shouldn't be two sets of standards for political contributions."

Senator Udall-CO: (8:00 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The Disclose Act of 2012 asks a simple question, an important and eminently fair question: Where does the money come from and where is it going? And let me just say if we don't start asking that question, we may soon be asking another one, one that we heard when scandals shook this country in years past. What did he know and when did he know it? So a simple question that follows the money, that says the American people have a right to know who is writing the checks. Under the bill, any covered organization, including corporations, labor unions, nonprofit organizations and SuperPACs that spend $10,000 or more on campaign-related disbursements during an election cycle would have to file a report with the federal election commission that discloses all donations above $10,000. It also requires the disclosure of any transfer made to a third party for the purposes of campaign-related expenditures. This addresses the growing problem of using so-called social welfare organizations to funnel anonymous money to SuperPACs. This is a practical, sensible measure. It doesn't get money out of our elections but it does shine a light into the dark corners of the campaign finance system. A similar bill in the last Congress had broad support, broad bipartisan support, with 59 votes in the Senate and passing the House. But since then we have all watched the flood of money raining down during this election year. We are seeing the real impact of citizens united and speech now decisions on our elections. The need for this legislation has become even more apparent."

Senator Bennet: (8:13 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "One of the things that's really interesting about this SuperPAC phenomena is it's a very small group of very wealthy people that are contributing to it. It's not most corporations. It's not most people that have some means. This is a tiny, tiny group of people that are committed to a set of political outcomes and their economic interests that I'm not sure are in the same interests of most of the folks that live in my state. Again, we're not saying they can't do it. This bill doesn't say they can't do it. This bill just says if you're going to do it, you need to tell us who you are. We want to know who you are. Step up and say why it is you're doing what you're doing. It's not surprising, by the way, that this problem has become enormous since this decision was made. In 2006, 1% of donors were undisclosed. That was it. That was it. 1%. 99% were disclosed. 1% was not disclosed. Today - it's actually even worse today. This is 2010. A year I was running and a year when Coloradans saw my ugly mug more on the television than anyone deserve to see, more outside money than any state in the United States of America. 44% of the money that was spent was not disclosed. The identity of the people that gave the money was not disclosed. That's half virtually of what was spent, and it's going to be worse this year."

Inhofe, Klobuchar, Menendez, Brown-OH

Disclose Act (S. 3369)

Jul 16 2012

Senator Inhofe: (6:40 PM)
  • Spoke on the Law of the Sea Treaty.
    • SUMMARY "The announcement that I would make is that we now have a letter containing 34 signatures of those who say that if you bring up the ratification of the law of the sea treaty this year, that we would oppose it When I talk to someone about the problems with this and I tell them that this would give cede authority to the united nations over 70% of the surface of the earth along with air above it. I remember one time a witness came - and this is back during the Bush administration, which was supporting the treaty - when I asked the question, I said, now, if you have 70% of the surface area, does that mean you also have 70% of the air above it? And they couldn't answer that question. But now I think it's pretty well understood that that would be the case The first time in the history of this country, authorize the United Nations to have taxing authority over the United States of America . The area that is in controversy in terms of their ability to tax or otherwise get royalties from the United States that would otherwise go to the United States and put those into the United Nations is an area called the extend the continental shelf ... would be in excess of 200 nautical miles offshore. Now, nothing within this treaty is going to affect anything that are within the 200 miles. But outside, it would be. And so, as it is right now, it's important to understand how the royalties are paid participate. Royalties are paid at the present time. Royalties are usually when the United States collects from the extended continental shelf, an amount from between 12.5% and 18.75%. The reason there is a disparity is because the royalties go along with how much money can be made out there if things go well, how deep it is, how far out it is, how expensive it is to drill, and all of that. So the range is always - the United States currently collects between 12.5% and 18.75% from the extended continental shelf. Under the article, if we should pass the law of the sea treaty, under article 82, that would at the end of the 12th year give 7% royalties, take them away from the United States - that's roughly half the royalties that we would have - and give them to the international seabed authority to redistribute those in accordance with what they want to do. They would make this redistribution of wealth. I've often said that's one of the things that the United Nations has always desired. That is to have the ability to redistribute the wealth. So if the amounts that would fall into the royalties outside - within the extended continental shelf, it's hard to say exactly what they would be, but there was a group that was appointed to try to approximate these things, and that - and they have said that it would be in the hundreds of billions. In other words - or maybe even in the trillions. Now, for each trillion that would be in production, that would equal about $70 billion taken out of the United States Treasury and put into the United Nations, sent to the seabed authority in Kingston, Jamaica, to be redistricted around the world in accordance with whatever criteria they would have."

Senator Klobuchar: (6:53 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "I'm here to focus today on the public's distrust of our political process and our need to ensure that the American people have a government that's responsive to their concerns. Free and fair elections in which every American has a right to make their voice heard at the voting booth are really the cornerstone of our democracy. Yet in the wake of a Citizen United decision, a flood of special-interest spending has undermined the faith of the American people and our elections. By loosening the rules on campaign spending, Citizens United has led to a torrent of negative ads funded not by concerned citizens participating in democracy but by unlimited special-interest money. I don't think we thought we'd see the day with all the reforms that had been made where just one billionaire can write a $10 billion check or a $20 billion check and while candidates under the system this we have to report every contribution of $200 and over and you have to painstakingly do your reports so the world can see them and your constituents can see them online and so reporters can see them. You have literally hundreds of millions of dollars that are being spent where you cannot tell where that money came from. That is just not right. This type of campaign spending moves the focus of our elections away from the real issues facing American families. But, worse, this unprecedented involvement of special interests in our political process has convinced the American people that there is something wrong with how we conduct elections, and there is. Americans can see the increased role that special interests and even individual billionaires are playing in politics, heightening their suspicions that Washington works only for the powerful. I hear constantly from people of my state who believe, justifiably, that the more money outside groups spend secret money that they're spending on these campaigns - the less that their voices are heard. We cannot continue to allow faith in our democratic process to be eroded by the secretive influence of outside money The act requires that certain corporations, unions, section 527 political groups, and so-called SuperPACs declare their campaign spending above a certain the act will ensure that Americans can find out the sources of funding for advertising that they seek. Most importantly, it will prevent special interests from hiding behind the curtain as they attempt to influence our elections. And by setting the reporting threshold at $10,000, this carefully crafted act that we just voted to go ahead with and unfortunately were blocked by a filibuster, this carefully crafted act ensures small businesses and other organizations will not be unduly burdened and that only significant political players will have to report their spending."

Senator Menendez: (7:01 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "I think we have a patriotic obligation to protect our electoral system from that kind of influence. These anonymous secretive interests, mostly corporate, aren't spending money because they want to feel like a part of the process. They're spending money for a purpose. They have a reason, and no doubt a self-interest. You don't spend tens of millions of dollars without having an interest, without having a self-interest. Is this what our founding fathers had in mind? We should know who they are and what their agenda is. Since the Supreme Court made its ruling in Citizens United, allowing corporate interests to spend money unlimitedly - the money has been more than trickling in. The money has been a torrent, a tsunami of unlimited cash. According to the New York Times, independent groups have spent at least $118 million since the start of the presidential campaign. One SuperPAC alone has spent over $57 million. And if you don't believe me, listen to Michael Toner, he's the former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission who said "I can tell you from personal experience, the money's flowing. The money's flowing." And this begs the question: Where is this money flowing from? And where is it going? Who's behind the cash? And what's to prevent foreign government interest to be influencing our elections? What's to stop foreign influence in American elections other than complete disclosure? If corporations are spending money to influence elections, it's for the sole purpose of improving their own bottom lines. And this undermines the very essence of our democracy where individual citizens are the ones who should determine the outcome of elections, not murky, shadowy, multibillion-dollar corporate interests, or worse, a foreign government. Disclosure, full disclosure, that's what we need and it's what we should demand before the people lose control of our electoral process."

Senator Brown-OH: (7:11 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "We need to pass this bill. The Disclose Act would ensure greater accountability and transparency, in corporate spending. Over the course of the past two years, we have seen politics increasingly influenced by millionaires and billionaires who secretly give unlimited amounts of money to manipulate American politics. These multimillionaires are trying to secretly buy elections. The Disclosure Act would prevent these corporations and wealthy individuals from using shell front groups to hide their donations from disclosure. By giving millions of dollars in secret money, these mega-donors are looking to cash in on policies that will benefit big business interest ... I am concerned that those groups undisclosed want to buy elections. You know why they want to buy elections? They want to buy elections so they can continue the subsidies they get in the tax break for the oil companies. They want to buy elections so they can continue to outsource jobs to China and write trade rules that make it easier and more profitable to do that. They want to buy elections because they want to stop our efforts to force the six largest banks in the country, the Wall Street banks to divest some of their earnings so they're not just too big to fail. They are also too big to manage and too big to regulate. They want to buy elections. These outside groups because they want to continue the preferential treatment they get in this Congress when they are drug companies and stop generic drugs and stop the negotiation directly with the drug companies to save money for seniors for their pharmaceutical drugs. That's what they have at stake. Always, frankly, against the public interest, always an attack on the middle class, always an assault on people that simply want an opportunity to get ahead in this country The Disclose Act would prevent these corporations from continuing to deceive the public and simply not informing the public what's happening. Their priorities erode protections and safeguard for middle-class workers and their families. They are seeking to extend tax shelters for the top 1%. This is not just an attack on the integrity of our democracy. That's fundamentally what it is, but that's not why they do it. They do it because it's a direct assault to middle-class families in working America. The 1%, the 1% will do increasingly better because of Citizens United. The 1% is mostly behind these efforts and mostly behind the efforts to defeat the Disclose Act."

Jul 16 2012

Not Agreed to, 51-44:
Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3369, the Disclose Act.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Jul 16 2012

Confirmed, 91-3-1:
Executive Calendar #662, Kevin McNulty, of New Jersey, to be United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Jul 16 2012

Senator Leahy: (5:00 PM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "It's ironic because the efforts to stall votes on judicial nominees with significant bipartisan support is all to the detriment of the American people. There have been tactics, there have been delays for the last three and a half years despite repeated appeals, bipartisan appeals urging them to work with us to help solve the judicial vacancy crisis. I have been here in the time of President Ford, President Carter, President Reagan, President George H.W. Bush, President Clinton, President George W. Bush. None of these presidents were treated like this, none of them were by either Republicans or Democrats. Somehow this president is considered different Sadly, Republicans insist on being the party of no. But the American people and the overburdened federal courts need qualified justices to administer justice in our federal courts, not the perpetuation of extended numerous vacancies. We extend the number of vacancies even as the population of this country increases. Today, vacancies on the federal courts are more than two and a half times as many as they were on this day during the first term of President Bush. Today there are still 78 vacancies. Because of the delays caused by Republicans, there has actually been an increase in judicial vacancies during President Obama's first term, a development that's a sad first. Had Republicans not stalled 19 nominations way last year and dragged those confirmations out until may of this year, we, the American people and the federal courts would be much better off. Instead, we have 18 qualified judicial nominations that we could be voting on without further delay. The nominations date back to October of last year. Most were nominated before March. In fact, the circuit court nominees who republicans were refusing to consider date back to October, November of last year and January of this year."

Senator Grassley: (5:08 PM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "We have confirmed 152 district and circuit court nominees of this president. We have also confirmed two Supreme Court nominations during President Obama's first term. Now, everyone understands that Supreme Court nominations take a great deal of committee time. When the Supreme Court nominations are pending in the committee, all other nomination work is put on hold. The last time the Senate confirmed two Supreme Court nominees was during President Bush's second term, and during that term, the Senate confirmed a total of only 119 district and circuit court nominees. With McNulty's confirmation today, we will have confirmed 34 district and circuit court nominees for President Obama than we did for President Bush in similar circumstances. During the last presidential election in 2008, the Senate confirmed a total of 28 judges, 24 district and four circuit. Today we will exceed the number of district court judges confirmed. We have already confirmed five circuit nominees, and this will be the 26th district judge confirmed this year. Those who say that this president is being treated differently either fail to recognize history or want to ignore the facts. Another statistic that is often misused to allege a campaign of Republican obstructionism is the days to confirmation. My colleagues on the other side want to focus on one particular phase of the confirmation process. The time from being reported out of committee to actual confirmation on the Senate floor. They ignore the timeline for the rest of that process. The fact is that for both presidents, the average time for nomination to confirmation is roughly equivalent. 211 days for President Bush's judicial nominees and 224 days for President Obama's judicial nominees. There is another issue I want to turn to which is repeatedly raised, that of the vacancy rate, as if Republicans are to blame for that fact as well. Let me review the record and set the facts out for all to hear. When President Obama took office, there were 59 judicial vacancies. I know that at the beginning of 2008, there were 43 vacancies. So the practice for Democrats who controlled the Senate during that last year of President Bush's term was to allow vacancies to increase by more than 37%. By mid March, 2009, when the first Obama judicial nomination was sent up to the senate, there were 70 judicial vacancies. Over the next three months, despite the rise in vacancies, only five more circuit nominations were sent to this body. By the end of June, when the Senate received its first district nominations, there were 80 vacancies. The failure or delay in submitting nominations for vacancies has been the practice of this administration and somehow people want to blame the United States Senate and particularly Republicans in the Senate for not moving swiftly enough. By the end of 2009, there were 100 vacancies, with only 20 nominees. In December, 2010, more than half of the 108 vacancies had no nomination. At the beginning of this year, only 36 nominees were pending for the 82 vacancies. At present, still more than half of the 78 vacancies have no nominee. So I remind my colleagues once again that all of this process starts not here in the United States Senate but in the White House at the other end of Pennsylvania avenue, so when one wants to complain about judicial vacancies, start first by looking there and then to the Democrats who controlled the Senate during this period. Because of those delays in nominations and decisions made by the senate democratic leadership, only 13 judges were confirmed during President Obama's first year. That was the choice of Democrats who controlled the White House and the Senate, not because of anything the Republican minority could do."

Senator Lautenberg: (5:19 PM)
  • Spoke on the McNulty nomination.

Senator Menendez: (5:24 PM)
  • Spoke on the McNulty nomination.

Jul 16 2012

Senator Kerry: (3:57 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "It's not a coincidence today as we come to the floor of the United States Senate that maybe no Republican or very few, very few I think is a fair way to say it, will be willing to vote that we ought to disclose where money comes from. We're not even here seeking a limitation on the amount of spending. We ought to be, but we're not. We're here simply trying to get the American people to have the right to know who is giving the money, who is paying these millions of dollars in order to affect the debate in America. And in most cases I will tell you frankly, to distort the debate. I believe that the amount of money in American politics today is stealing America's democracy. It is robbing Americans of the right to have the kind of representation and the kind of discussion that Americans deserve ... I don't think anybody here could believe that the amount of money in the system today doesn't have the ability to drown out the voices of people who get into public service in order to get things done. But who don't have that kind of money and don't have that kind of money. And frankly, the fundamental reason why there is such a disparity between the numbers of democrats who want to have a fair playing field and the numbers of republicans who vote against campaign finance reform is, is obviously they have a lot more money. Corporations have a lot more money. Big billionaires who don't want to be taxed in a fair way in America have a lot more money to throw at the system. So you have one guy who can keep a candidacy alive where normally it would have died long ago. The only life it had was the money. And that's what happens today. That is not what the founding fathers intended for this institution. Ours is a system where billions of dollars can be spent by until millionaire or billionaire or the largest corporations in the world to distort our democracy, diminish the voices of candidates, pollute our airwaves with spending whatever and whenever, and the average American doesn't even get to know where the money's coming from. They have the ability in the United States of America to do it secretly, secretly. Secret money. The sources are unspecified. And the American people don't know who's behind that I think that's an insult to the freedom that every senator ex tolls the virtues of all the time in this Senate, it's an insult to the notion about our liberty and our equality and our fairness. It violates the rules of honorable discourse and debate and it's a threat to every single public servant running for office today in this nation. Because it means their ideas can be drowned by the dollars."

Senator Cornyn: (4:22 PM)
  • Spoke on the fiscal cliff.
    • SUMMARY "Senators on both sides of the aisle understand that a massive tax increase could well push our economy back into a recession. Senators on both sides of the aisle understand that it would suffocate our investments that are so important to business creation and job growth. Senators on both sides of the aisle understand that middle-class families are already struggling with high unemployment and wage stagnation and senators on both sides of the aisle understand that we're living through the weakest economic recovery since the great depression. And yet President Obama and his party seem obsessed with raising taxes on the very people who are responsible for most of that new job creation. Led by the president, these same people are demonizing business owners and demanding that they be punished while simultaneously demanding that these same people create jobs. It's no wonder that so many Americans are concerned about the future of the united states economy. Meantime, democratic leaders like our colleague from Washington state are apparently ready to stand by and allow truly draconian across-the-board defense cuts even though the secretary of defense, the president's own secretary of defense has said these cuts would hollow out our military and be catastrophic to our national security. It simply amazes and discourages me that some people are willing to play chicken with our economy and our national security in such a cavalier, calculated sort of way. Given that our country has endured 41 straight months of unemployment above 8% and given how devastating these defense cuts would be to our military, I'd like to ask our president and my democratic colleagues a few simple questions. Are you really willing to allow the largest tax increase in American history? Are you really willing to risk the United States economy, heading backwards into a recession by the combination of these huge tax increases and the $1.2 trillion budget sequestration scheduled for January the 2nd? Are you really willing to tell middle-class families that their needs are less important than the political needs of their party? When it comes to the defense cuts that are part of the sequestration scheduled to go into effect January of 2013, are you really willing to do what Secretary Panetta said, which is hollow out the United States military? Are you really willing to let Washington gamesmanship compromise our nation's security? Are you really willing to let the heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan and our veterans, are you willing to tell them that their needs are less important than the political needs of their party? In short, are you really willing to put election-year politics ahead of the nation's interest?"

Senator Mikulski: (4:32 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose. Act.
    • SUMMARY "The Disclose Act is simple. It requires a covered organization to follow disclosure with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours after they spend $10,000 or more on a campaign. Now, who is a covered organization? Corporations, labor unions, PACs, and SuperPACs. This isn't a new concept for here in congress. We have regulations. When you are a candidate, like a candidate Mikulski, you face limits on donors. During a campaign I have to say who has given me money, I have to disclose who has given me money, and the donor has limits Why can't that true for all campaigns? What's wrong with saying who you are when you're giving more than $10,000 a year? The American public has a right to know. They have a right to be heard, and they need to be represented The integrity of our political system is important to me. We aren't sent here to do the business of secrecy or high-dollar bidding on our seat. We're sent here to do the work of the people. We owe it to the people to let them know who gives us money, how much they give and what is it that they do. Let's vote in favor of democracy. Let's support the Disclose Act and let's have a United States Congress that's unbought."

Senator Lautenberg: (4:38 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The American people have a right to know who is responsible. It is being corrupted by secret money from secret donors every day. Every day they spend more and more money to buy our elections. But we don't even know who they are. We're talking about a small number of people who are among the richest in America, and they are determined to manipulate the election in order to elect those to high office, including a president, who will pursue their special interests. When we turn on the TV, we see their handiwork right in front of our eyes: attack ads that are filled with what's happening are undermining our democracy one distortion at a time. And who's responsible for the fabrications in these ads? We can't know. Unlike the election rules of the past, the names of those funding these operations are hidden from the American people. We see organizations with innocuous names like Americans for Prosperity, Crossroads GPS fill the airwaves with wild claims. These front agencies provide the curtain that hides billionaires and corporations from sight. We need to pull back this curtain on the distortions of secret money. Why shouldn't American citizens know who wants to override our people power with their purchasing power? Democrats have offered a way to shine the sunlight on who's trying to buy our country? The Disclose Act would reveal the identity of those who pour millions of dollars into efforts to deceive the American people. Their sinister intention is to protect their own corporate welfare. But it is clear that the republicans are doing everything in their power to prevent the American people from knowing who's behind this disgraceful mission of deception and dishonesty."

Senator Cardin: (4:49 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The bill that we are, have before us, and I urge my colleagues to let us move forward - the Disclose Act - brings transparency into the campaign finance system. Many of us talk about transparency frequently. Transparency is the most important part of integrity in our system. We talk about a lot of other countries adding transparency to the way they do business. We should have transparency in one of the most fundamental parts of our system, and that's how we conduct our elections. It's key to a democracy I've heard some of my colleagues say can we constitutionally do this? Is this allowed for us? After all, Citizens United sort of says that anything goes. Let me quote from the Citizens United decision where the court wrote "prompt disclosures of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters. Shareholders can determine whether their corporations' political speech advances the corporation' interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are in the pocket of so-called moneyed interests. The first amendment protects political speech and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and gives proper weight to the different speakers and messages.â€? That's the Supreme Court speaking in citizens united. So, we clearly have the authority to move in at least this modest step forward to get to the American people to see who we're making these contributions, so they can make an informed judgment on election day. We owe that to the citizens of this country to take up and pass the Disclose Act."

Kyl, Bingaman, Hatch

Disclose Act (S. 3369)

Jul 16 2012

Senator Kyl: (3:11 PM)
  • Spoke on outsourcing.
    • SUMMARY "There has been criticism of companies that send jobs to another country or that hire people in other countries to do work for them. The same thing can be said when a business no longer expands in the state in which it's headquartered or operating, it moves part of its business to another state. We've seen our states excel compete for business and the reason they do that in many cases is because the business conditions under which they operate in the first state are no longer conducive to competition for them to be able to make products or provide services that are competitive with those who are working to compete against them. And so they have to go where labor is cheaper, where the costs are less, where the regulation is not as onerous, taxes are lower perhaps. In other words, where the conditions for doing business are more favorable so that they can continue to compete. And the same thing is true when jobs are sent overseas. The reality is that American businessmen are not sitting around wondering how they can be evil, how they can fire American workers, how they can go overseas to do business. It's much easier to stay right here in the good old USA for a whole lot of reasons. They make a lot of sacrifices to keep their businesses here. But there comes a point in time when American tax policy, regulatory policy, and the uncertainty of doing business here finally gets to the point where in order to remain competitive they have to find work elsewhere or places el elsewhere, where they can do their work to remain competitive ... If a company has to make that product overseas in order to remain competitive, that's exactly what they're going to do. It is not good for American workers who can't work in that particular industry. But that's the cause for it? Is it because their folks out there who want to somehow hurt American workers, who aren't patriotic or who are evil people? I mean, think about t the answers of course are now. The only reason that they're hiring work to be done in foreign countries is because that's how they can stay competitive The problem here is not that there are evil businessmen who hate American workers. They bend over backwards to keep their business here. It is a lot easier. But the reason sometimes they have to go abroad is because their government treats them unfairly compared to their competitors overseas. We tax them too much, we regulate them too much, and there's too much uncertainty."
  • Spoke on the Bush tax cuts.
    • SUMMARY "At a time when we're in the middle of a very severe economic downturn and when the president himself just a year and a half ago said, to raise taxes under these circumstances would be a blow to the economy. And again he said, you don't raise taxes in a recession. And when he said those things, our gross domestic product growth was about 3%. We were growing a rate of about 3%. Today it is under 2%. And we still have 8.2% unemployment. So the circumstances today are, if anything, worse than they were a year and a half ago when the president said we shouldn't raise taxes because it'll be a blow to the economy. You don't raise taxes in a recession. So why would the president be proposing it now and what is he proposing? If you take the top quintile of taxpayer, the top 20%, high-income earners, they already pay 90% of the taxes in the country. Is it fair that that top 20% should pay 90% of the taxes? Well, you can argue whether that is fair or not. But should they pay more? As it is, the rest of us only pay 10%, so what is fair? Why is it fair to take away from people what they have earned and what they want to save in order to give it to somebody else or to have the government spend the money be, as if the government was wiser in spending money thank the citizens are? The reality is that the people who are successful, who make money, create capital, which is then invested in businesses. And that investment promotes job creation and economic growth. Raising the gross domestic product for all of us. That's the economics of success. And it's the opportunity society that this country has held sacred for over two centuries. Give people an opportunity to succeed . Why would you change your mind just a year and a half, after you said it would be a blow to the economy, to now suggest raising taxes? And who are these people that make $200,000? Well, it turns out that about a million of these people - 940,000, to be exact - are business owners. These are the small business folks who create the jobs, most of the jobs coming out of the recession. In fact, they account for 25% of all jobs in America, a quarter all of the jobs are by these very folks that you're going to raise the taxes on. I know some people said, well, that's only a small percentage of the business owners. It's only 3%. Yeah, and that 3% accounts for 53% of the income taxes paid. In other words, these are the businesses that are creating the jobs. They employ a quarter of all of the people in the country, they're paying 53% of the taxes in this tax bracket. And the reality is, when raising taxes on that group, you're going to make it more difficult for them to grow their businesses, to add more people."

Senator Bingaman: (3:27 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The Disclose Act is an important step in the direction of requiring transparency. The legislation would require certain organizations that make more than $10,000 in campaign-related expenditures to file a disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission and to report the names of any donors who contributed over $10,000. About 93% of the money raised by SuperPACs in 2010 through 2011 came from donors giving over $10,000, and this legislation would shed some light on where this money is coming from. The disclosure requirements apply to corporations, to labor unions, to 501-c-3 nonprofit organizations and to 527 election advocacy organizations, but they would not apply to 503-c-3 charitable organizations. The legislation also includes mechanisms to protect legitimate nonpolitical donations from disclosure and prevents funding sources from being hidden by laundering funds through third-party groups. It's clear that our campaign laws are outdated. They are in desperate need of revision. Frankly, I wish there was a consensus in Congress to make more fundamental reforms to our campaign finance system than we are considering today. Unfortunately, this is not presently the case. But I would hope that we could build bipartisan support for some basic disclosure provisions and for this narrowly tailored bill that is pending here in the Senate. A much more comprehensive version of the disclose law was filibustered by Republicans in 2010, and the revised version that we're currently debating has been narrowed significantly. The provisions banning campaign spending by foreign entities and government contractors were removed. Corporate campaign spending is no longer required to be reported to shareholders and lobbyists won't have to report their campaign spending in their annual disclosure reports under the bill being considered here in the Senate. The new bill also raises the disclosure trigger from $600 to $10,000 to focus only on large donations and to reduce the burden on organizations. And the newest version dropped the "stand by your ad" provision that required the listing of donors in TV and radio ads. I'm not unsympathetic to first amendment concerns regarding the rights of politically active groups that want to be engaged in the discussions regarding the future of our country. But enabling corporations and special interest groups to use what are essentially shell organizations for the simple purpose of spending vast sums of money to influence elections and to do so in secret is incredibly harmful to our democracy."

Senator Hatch: (3:36 PM)
  • Spoke on the Bush tax cuts.
    • SUMMARY "Rather than stop the country from going over the fiscal cliff and preventing the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax relief, they are prepared to Thelma and Louise the American economy right off the cliff. This is an astonishing admission but it is not surprising. We hear from the other side about Republican orthodoxy on tax relief but we rarely here them come clean about their own orthodoxy. On Friday in Virginia the president let his real views on economic matters slip. Here are his views on business owners: "Somebody helped to create this unbelievable system we have that allowed to you thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.â€? Well, the president is right that somebody did make that happen. The people that made it happen are called taxpayers. The president seems to think that the Department of Transportation just made those roads and bridges happen, but that isn't how it works. Nothing happens in this country, no roads, no bridges, no firefighters, no military, no public schools, no nothing without taxpayers footing the bill. And much of that financing comes from the very small businesses that President Obama was lecturing on Friday and that he and his allies are desperate to raise taxes on. Their economic philosophy appears to be that government is the engine of the economy when in fact the government ceases to exist without economic growth and the tax revenues that fund all of these investments the president wants to spend on. With this bizarre world view, it is not really surprising that President Obama and Senate Democrats think that it is more important to raise taxes on over a million small businesses than it is to prevent a recession and encourage job growth. If we do not address this fiscal cliff, taxes will go up by over $4.5 trillion over the next ten years. The president's former director of the Office of Management and Budget has suggested that this might throw us into a recession. The Federal Reserve has suggested this dire outcome as well. But instead of dealing with it by extending the existing tax rates, the president and senate allies are playing chicken with the economic recovery. They are playing games not only with the economy, but they are playing games with people's livelihoods. This is a disgrace. The American people understand that tax increases in the name of deficit reduction wind up being tax increases to fund larger government. That's been the history of my 36 years here."
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "The majority knows that this legislation will not pass in the Senate, or at least they should know given the fact that this chamber has already rejected this legislation. What's worse is that it appears that the majority doesn't even want this legislation to pass. What they want and what has become too common in the senate these days is another dog and pony show, another opportunity to demonize the business community and service of the president's class warfare campaign theme. My friends on the other side of the aisle would have you believe that the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision paved the way for a corporate takeover of our election system that corporations are spending untold millions to influence elections with no accountability. What they won't tell you is that increased spending by SuperPACs in this campaign cycle has nothing to do with Citizens United. While they're doing that, touting the benefits of increased disclosure, they conveniently leave out the fact that SuperPACs are already required to expose their donors and that the Supreme Court in Citizens United no less actually upheld those disclosure requirements. Furthermore, and contrary to the majority's talking points, Citizens United has not led to a dramatic increase in corporate campaign spending. Yet, the majority argues that the dangers of corporate campaign spending are ever present, and as a result we need to know the names and addresses of individual donors to such campaigns. So with the dangers to democracy of corporate giving and the negative impact of Citizens United largely straw men, what is the purpose of our debating this bill here today? Clearly this effort is more about discouraging political speech than on transparency. It is just another effort on the part of the Obama administration and the congressional allies to intimidate those who disagree with the president's policies. Not able to defend these policies, it is critical that the president discourage those who would criticize them."
  • Spoke on welfare reform.
    • SUMMARY "In essence by a stroke of the pen and clear the intent of the bipartisan majorities of the American people, Congress and the law itself, President Obama's administration has attempted to undo welfare reform, one of the signature bipartisan policy achievements of the last 20 years. Nearly 16 years ago, on august 22, 1996, after two vetoes, then-President Clinton finally signed the personal responsibility and work opportunity reconciliation act. Otherwise known as welfare reform. This landmark legislation, the product of the Republican-controlled congress, ended the entitlement to welfare and replaced it with a block grant to the states. The block grant known as the temporary assistance for needy families or TANF, provided states with unprecedented control over welfare programs in exchange for meeting federal work standards. Since the enactment of welfare reform, welfare caseloads have dropped dramatically. Families receiving welfare have dropped by nearly 60%. People have got jobs, people who have never had jobs before for generations and gained the self-esteem from working. Welfare reform remains popular and is often cited as the most significant domestic policy accomplishment in decades. The core philosophy behind welfare reform is the emphasis on work and moving from dependency to self-sufficiency. Now, despite the popularity of welfare reform, programs created under TANF have languished. As more states were able to get credit towards the federal work requirement based on the declining caseloads, TANF increasingly became less of a welfare to work program and more of a funding stream to prop up other social programs The Obama administration has not proposed a comprehensive reauthorization of TANF and TANF is continued under a series of stop-gap extensions. Late last week, the Obama administration quietly released "guidance" to the states informing them that the administration had granted itself authority to waive work requirements in TANF, "including definitions of work activities and engagement, specified limitations, verification procedures and the calculation of participation rates." In the 16 years since TANF, no administration has concluded that they have the authority to waive the TANF work requirements."

McConnell, Boozman, Whitehouse

Disclose Act (S. 3369)

Jul 16 2012

Senator McConnell: (2:18 PM)
  • Spoke on the Bush tax cuts.
    • SUMMARY "We've had 41 straight months of unemployment above 8%. It's been more than three years since the Democratic Senate passed a budget. But this is what they want to do? For months Republicans have been urging Democrats to do something about the approaching fiscal cliff now, before it's too late. The American people don't expect us to see every crisis that comes around the corner, but they should be able to expect us to do something about the problems we do see, that we know are coming. Yet last week President Obama signaled that he and his campaign advisors think it's good politics to keep the threat of these looming tax hikes on everyone right on the table as supposed leverage in an effort to raise taxes on nearly a million business owners right now. And, as the Washington Post reported this morning, not only do Democrats in Congress agree with him, they're ready and willing to go right off the fiscal cliff if they don't get their way. In their near fanatical crew crusade to inflict pain on American businesses, Democrats are openly admitting that they want to wait until this is full-throttle and the Americans are panicked to do anything, because they think it'll make it likelier they will get their way. If they don't, then so be it. So be it. They're ready to accept the economic and fiscal co consequences. They see a crisis coming, and they don't want to waste it. The Congressional Budget Office has said that not doing anything and walking off this fiscal cliff would lead to a recession. The IMF, its chief, says it would threaten the global economy. And yet Senate Democrats today are announcing they're perfectly willing and ready to accept all that if Republicans don't allow this them to raise taxes on the very businesses that we're counting on to create the jobs that we need. This is what passes for governance among Democrats these days? Put the American people up against a wall, pick their pockets, and then hope in the midst of the scuffle they blame it and the recession that would follow on the Republicans. Let's make no mistake. What the Democrats are proposing today is an entirely avoidable high-stakes game of chicken with the single-minded goal of taking more money from those who earn it for government to waste. Taking more money from those who earn it for the government to waste. The president made it very clear over the weekend that he doesn't think entrepreneurs are responsible for their own success. They owe it to the government. Successful entrepreneurs owe their success to the government. That's the attitude driving everything this president and his democratic allies in Washington are doing right now. Their one-point plan for getting America back on track is clear: you earn, we take. And if they don't get to impose it, then they'll welcome a recession. They're so single-mindedly focused on taking the earnings of others for themselves and spreading it around in the president's famous phrase that they're recklessly ignoring any proposal in order to achieve it. Last week Senate Republicans proposed a solution that ensures that no one sees their income tax go up - no one - at the end of the year. That creates a path for the kind of fair, broad-based, comprehensive tax reform members of both parties claim they want. And which would give individuals and businesses the certainty that they've been asking us to give them since the very beginning of the administration. We could have passed this completely reasonable proposal last week and put the anxieties of millions of Americans at ease with a single vote. But Democrats, of course, refused. They'd rather keep the crisis unresolved, keep it looming out there on the horizon. They think it gives them a political edge. They think it's good politics. They should be ashamed. They should be ashamed."
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "This legislation is an unprecedented requirement for groups to publicly disclose their donors, stripping a protection recognized and solidified by the courts. As a result of this legislation, advocacy groups ranging from the NAACP to the Sierra Club to the Chamber of Commerce, all of whom already disclosed their donors to the IRS, would now be forced to subject their members to public intimidation and harassment. Why? Why? For supporting organizations and groups whose goals they agree with. Predictably, unions are exempted from the kind of disclosure democrats want to impose on everybody else. The so-called stand by your ad provision in an earlier version has donated David Copperfield and entirely vanished. I'm not advocating for the provision, but simply to note its absence, which proves that the primary goal of this bill is not good government or transparency but targeted speech suppression. That's what this is about. Targeted speech suppression. I have to give the authors credit, whoever they are. They actually list labor unions as a covered organization in the bill. However, through an elaborate scheme of thresholds and triggers, they might as well have saved the ink, since unions are largely given a free pass by this bill despite the fact that they are by far the biggest players in political campaigns in our entire country. No one else comes close. Almost all of it, of course, on the democratic side. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, labor unions spent a total of $4.4 billion on campaigns from 2005 to 2011, a staggering amount of money and perfectly within their rights, I would add, under the first amendment. So let's be clear, the other side may be able to whip the media up into a lather of participation over the individuals and groups who don't like the direction this president has taken this country, but the really big money is coming from the left in the form of mandatory dues to labor unions. To the left, big money from individuals and corporations is a problem. But the nearly $800 million spent by unions in 2008, oh, that's just fine and dandy, as long as nearly 100% of it goes to their own campaign. As supporters of this legislation have readily admitted, the real target of this bill is to protect themselves from criticism over their wildly, wildly unpopular policies and positions."

Senator Boozman: (2:41 PM)
  • Paid tribute to Army Sergeant Michael Strakota.

Senator Whitehouse: (2:43 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY SUMMARY "In the 2010 midterm elections, the first after Citizens United, there was a more than fourfold increase in expenditures from SuperPAC's and other outside groups compared with 2006. $69 million up to $305 million, with nearly 3/4 of political advertising coming from sources that were prohibited from spending money back in 2006. Also in 2010, those 501-c-4 and c-6 not-for-profit organizations spent more than $135 million in unlimited and secret political contributions. Unanimous spending rose from 1% of outside spending in 2006 . to 44% in 2010. We're already seeing the influence of money on the 2012 elections. SuperPAC's and other outside groups have spent over $150 million in this election cycle, about twice what was spent over the same period in 2008 during the last presidential election. The New York Times have accounted for two-thirds of the political advertising bought by the biggest outside spenders so far in the 2012 election cycle, with close to $100 million in ads. Campaigns are no longer waged by candidates and parties fighting over ideas. They are now waged by shadowy political attack groups posing as social welfare organizations run by the likes of Karl Rove and other political operatives and fueled by millions of undisclosed dollars from secret special interests. When these secret special interests take over our elections this way, it drowns out the voices of regular individual Americans, and it puts in jeopardy some of the key pillars of a strong middle class, pillars like Medicare, Social Security and Pell Grants that have paved the way for generations to achieve the American dream but have always been the targets of special interests. These special interests have motives, they have motives to spend this kind of money, and if those motives were good for America, if they were welcome to the average American, they wouldn't need and they wouldn't want to keep them secret. So we need to ask ourselves a very important question - what are they hiding? Why do they demand secrecy? Whatever their answer, one thing is clear. Americans who worry that Washington is too beholden to special interests now need to be concerned more than ever. Hang onto your wallets, here come the special interests and you won't even know who they are ... This act contains only the most basic provisions requiring outside groups to disclose campaign-related fundraising and spending. The legislation has been streamlined from the Disclose Act that nearly passed the Senate in 2010. It places fewer burdens on covered organizations, it contains no prohibitions on spending, no special exemptions for any group or type of group, contrary to what the Republican leader said, it does not require grassroots organizations to disclose their donors and it treats every organization exactly the same right across the board. Some have complained like a Republican witness in the Rules Committee hearing on this bill that the so-called stand by your ad requirements originally in the bill were too burdensome. He described them actually as radical. So we removed them. We have tried to accommodate. I know many of my colleagues like Senator Ron Wyden who has authored this stand by your ad legislation and heroically fought for it for many years remain supporters of that provision and I hope we'll be able to introduce it at another time. But we didn't so that complained should be closed off. Some complain that this was just an attempt to influence this election. Well its effective date is January 1, 2013. So it will not, to the regret of many, influence this election."

Reid

Opening Remarks

Jul 16 2012

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 3369, the Disclose Act.
    • At 5:00 PM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session and begin up to 30 minutes of debate, equally divided, on Executive Calendar #662, Kevin McNulty, of New Jersey, to be United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey.
    • At 5:30 PM, the Senate will conduct 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on:
      1. Executive Calendar #662, Kevin McNulty, of New Jersey, to be United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey; and
      2. Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3369, the Disclose Act (there will be 10 minutes of debate prior to the vote).

Senator Reid: (2:03 PM)
  • Spoke on the Disclose Act.
    • SUMMARY "Thomas Jefferson one of our great presidents, once said "the end of democracy will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed corporations." Campaign finance reforms protections that we have in place and have had for many, many years have solved the problem that Jefferson talked about by limiting political spending by corporations. Then out of nowhere came the Supreme Court, and issued its Citizens United opinion rolling back a century of work to make elections transparent and credible. The result of Citizens United has been a flood of corporate special interest campaign spending by shadowy groups with questionable motives. Not since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican who put a stop to unlimited corporate owe donations has America seen this kind of out-of-control spending to influence elections. Democrats and a majority of Americans believe the Supreme Court got it very, very, very wrong with Citizens United. Anonymous spending by so-called nonprofits often backed by huge corporate donors used to make up 1% of election spending. This year it will make up over half the spending. There's no question that the citizens united decision opened the door for big corporations and foreign entities to secretly spend hundreds of millions of dollars to undermining the fairness and integrity of the process The legislation today before the senate, the Disclose Act, would require disclosure of donations in excess of $10,000 if they're used for campaign purposes. The bill treats all political entities whether unions, corporations, business associations or SuperPAC's the same, they're treated equally and contrary to Republican claims, this legislation would not require organizations to turn over membership rosters or list of grassroots donors ... Yet my Republican colleagues with rare exception have lined up against this commonsense legislation. Their newfound opposition to transparency makes one wonder who they're trying to protect. Perhaps republicans want to shield a handful of billionaires willing to contribute nine figures to sway a close presidential election. If this flood of outside money continues, the day after the election 17 angry old white men will wake up and realize they've just bought the country. That's a sad commentary. About 60% or more of these outside dollars are coming from these 17 people. These donors have something in common with their nominee. Like Mitt Romney, they believe they play by their own set of rules."

Jul 16 2012

The Senate Convened.

Jul 16 2012

The Senate is considering the nomination of Kevin McNulty of New Jersey to be United States district judge for the District of New Jersey.  The Senate is also considering the motion to proceed to S. 3369, the DISCLOSE Act.  Republican senators continue to focus on creating jobs, lowering the deficit, reducing gas prices, and replacing the Democrats' health care bill with reforms that will actually lower costs.