(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor today to voice her support for the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, which would bring transparency to corporate and special interest spending in elections. Shaheen is an original cosponsor of the legislation.
Shaheen’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
Mr. President, I rise today to address the serious and ongoing problem of excessive campaign spending. This has been a problem especially in the last two years since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. This decision allowed for the formation of Super PACs, organizations that can spend unlimited amounts of money. Now that we are in the midst of the first presidential election since that decision, we can see their dramatic impact.
There are now more than 500 Super PACs registered with the Federal Election Commission that are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to fund political advertisements. The amount of money spent by these Super PACs so far this election cycle has just topped $100 million. Nearly $80 million came from just five groups.
It’s important for all of us to reflect on our national priorities. What does it say about our country that we allow this deluge of money to flood our electoral process?
To give us some perspective, Mr. President, I think it might be useful to examine what else this amount of money could pay for.
- In the past few weeks we’ve been discussing the importance of providing survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault with the resources they need by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.
- One hundred million dollars could fund all of the domestic violence and sexual assault assistance in the entire state of New Hampshire for 20 years, and serve more than 320,000 victims.
- The New Hampshire Job Training Program provides workers with valuable instruction at community colleges across the state, preparing them for high-skilled jobs and creating a stronger economy.
- With one hundred million dollars, we could train 288,434 workers in my state.
- $100 million would provide low income heating assistance to more than 135,000 households. That’s enough to keep New Hampshire’s neediest families warm for three winters.
- The staring salary for a police officer in Manchester in $50,000. With $100 million we could put an additional 2,000 police officers on the street.
But instead, this money is being spent on political advertisements, millions of dollars from groups who refuse to disclose their donors. Most of these expenditures are on attack ads.
- According to a study by the Wesleyan Media Project, at this point during the last presidential election in 2008, just 10 percent of the ads were negative. Now that number is 70 percent.
It’s no wonder that Americans are becoming increasingly disillusioned with our political process.
The challenges confronting this country are significant. We need Americans to be engaged and invested in our political process, not throwing up their hands in frustration as the attack ads pile up. We need campaign finance reform.
I’ve been pleased to work with my colleague from Rhode Island, Senator Whitehouse, on the DISCLOSE Act, which makes some important changes to our current system. It will make sure that voters know who is really paying for all of these campaign ads. It does not eliminate Super PACs, but it is an important step in the right direction. It’s an important step we should take together.
I urge all of my colleagues to join me in calling for change, in urging reform of our campaign finance system. I urge their support of the DISCLOSE Act.
Thank you, Mr. President
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