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

Floor Speech

Date: July 17, 2012
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Elections


Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, I rise today to address the disturbing role that money is playing in our politics, especially when it comes to anonymous groups with deep pockets that are trying to tear people down. There is no question this is a corrosive situation and it is hurting our democracy.

When you have unaccountable outside groups with virtually unlimited pockets, more and more lawmakers--all of us included--have to spend more time dialing for dollars that takes us away from legislating. That is simply backwards, sir. Elected officials should be working on fixing our problems, not having to worry every minute of every day about raising money so you can be protective or fend off people who are attacking you. And the effects are very clear: This Congress has stalled when it comes to tackling our biggest problems as a nation, but we are raising more money in politics than ever before.

Those priorities in my State of West Virginia are totally out of order, and we need to do something to change the system. I am not alone with this concern. In private, I have talked to my fellow Senators on both sides, Democrats and Republicans, who basically say they are spending more time raising money for reelection and that constant fundraising events interfere with the everyday business of governing this great Nation in the time they are spending to do that.

I try to spend time in my great State of West Virginia every weekend. I can tell you the people of West Virginia are also deeply troubled by the increasing role money is playing in our politics. Ever since the Supreme Court decision on the Citizens United campaign finance case, we have seen outside groups unleash an unprecedented flood of money to sway elections, and we have seen it time and again in West Virginia over the past several years.

I was deeply troubled by some statistics about how few Americans are involved in financing elections. This is cited by Professor Lawrence Lessig, a campaign finance expert, in The Atlantic.

Let me put this issue in perspective for our viewers and my colleagues. The population of this country is approximately 311 million people. We live in this great United States of America. A tiny number of those Americans--only 806,000 people out of the 311 million--give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. To break that down even further, only 155,000 out of the 311 million contribute the maximum amount to any congressional candidate.

Then look at the people who participate in a number of elections who give more than $10,000 in an election cycle--the maximum they can give to a candidate and to other candidates--and of those people in the United States of America out of the 311 million, only 31,000 Americans do that.

Let me break it down to even the super PACs--the money that comes from the super PACs. Just in this Presidential election so far, there are only 196 Americans out of 311 million--only 196 people--who have given hundreds of millions of dollars. They account for 80 percent of the funding so far. That is unheard of.

First of all, let me thank Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island. He has been truly a champion of common sense, bringing this together and bringing all sides together. Some of my friends would say spending money to influence an election is their first amendment right of freedom of speech. To my friends, I understand and respect their concerns. But I truly believe the DISCLOSE Act will not limit their freedom of speech. Instead, it will prevent the anonymous political campaigning that is undermining our democracy.

The people of West Virginia believe we need openness and transparency to stay informed and keep our democracy strong, and the DISCLOSE Act would do that. The people of this country have a right to know who is spending large amounts of money to influence elections. This bill would make the information available.

I ask unanimous consent for 2 more minutes.


Mr. MANCHIN. In fact, the measure is quite simple. Anytime an organization or individual spends $10,000 or more on a campaign-related expense--that is the issue that is very important, campaign-related expense--they have to file a disclosure report with the Federal Elections Commission within 24 hours. Every one of us who runs for office has to disclose every penny we get. It should be that way. Some States, such as our sister State of Virginia, already have a transparency and disclosure law, and it has not stifled free speech there, nor does this provision affect organizations' regular operations. The disclosure is only required when organizations and individuals spend money on campaigns or try to influence elections.

Instead, this bill makes sure every person and organization plays fairly and by the same rules. Whether those organizations or individuals are in the middle, the left, the right, forward, backward or upside down, they have to play by the same rules.

In fact, I truly believe this provision will take an important step forward to increase transparency and accountability. That seems only right and fair to me. I am proud to cast my vote in favor of the DISCLOSE Act.

I yield the floor.