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Support of Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka Statement for the Congressional Record

Tue, July 17, 2012

Mr. AKAKA. Mr. President, I rise today to speak in strong support of S. 3369, the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act. I am proud to join 39 of my colleagues in sponsoring this measure and urge the Senate to act now to pass this transparent, common sense piece of legislation.

Free, fair, and open elections, as well as an informed electorate, are fundamental to ensuring that our government reflects the highest principles of democracy, which is the foundation of this country.

What is at stake today is nothing short of our electoral system.  We must reinforce the right of Americans to make fully informed decisions about the political candidates and parties that seek to represent them in government.

More than two years ago, the Supreme Court's 5 to 4 decision in Citizens United set the stage for the emergence of Super Political Action Committees (PACs) primarily underwritten by wealthy individuals to finance unregulated and often-anonymous "attack" political campaign advertising.  This decision effectively puts our elected positions up for sale to moneyed interests.

The DISCLOSE Act would address problems caused by the Citizens United decision by restoring accountability and transparency to our electoral system.  It would simply require labor unions, traditional PACs, Super PACs, and other covered organizations that spend $10,000 or more on political campaigns to identify themselves by filing a timely report with the Federal Elections Commission.

Opponents of the DISCLOSE Act claim that this bill would impede free speech and discourage political involvement.  I cannot disagree more.  To the contrary, the DISCLOSE Act preserves the right to express one's opinions and ideas through contributions to political campaigns; it only forces large contributors to identify themselves when making influential contributions.  Furthermore, it promotes civic involvement by empowering voters to effectively participate in the electoral process and make informed choices about their leaders.

We are all here to represent the voters in our states and districts who have entrusted us to represent them.  In our system of checks and balances, elected officials remain beholden to their constituents through elections; however, to allow this system to work, voters need to have all of the essential information that could influence their decision: who we are, who our supporters are, and, how much support we have received from various sources.

No democracy, including this one, can remain fair, successful, and viable if wealthy individuals are allowed to spend unchecked sums of money to anonymously influence the outcomes of its elections.

I urge my colleagues to do what is right for all Americans today and pass this important bill.

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