Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Kaufman Voices Continued Support for DISCLOSE Act

September 22, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC -- Senator Kaufman delivered the following remarks in support of the DISCLOSE Act on the Senate floor:

"In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court went out of its way to overturn nearly 100 years of statutes and settled precedent that had established the authority of Congress to limit the corrupting influence of corporate money in federal elections.  The Court ruled that corporations are absolutely free to spend shareholder money with the intent to promote the election or defeat of a candidate for political office. 

Beyond ignoring precedent, the Court’s reckless, immodest and activist opinion failed to distinguish between the rights of purpose-built political advocacy corporations and profit-driven, large corporations to direct resources to influence elections.  By issuing the broadest possible opinion, the majority admitted of no differences between Citizens United and General Motors. 

But this opinion left important questions unresolved.  Who determines what candidates General Motors supports or opposes?  The board of directors?  The CEO or other officers?  Employees?  All of these groups and individuals serve the corporation for the benefit of the shareholders.  How will the shareholders learn who makes these decisions within the corporation?  Even so, how are we to determine what speech the shareholders favor?  And do we care if the shareholders are U.S. citizens or citizens of an economic, political or military rival to the United States?

As it stands now, Citizens United allows corporate interests to prevail over the rights of American citizens, overwhelm the contributions (and voices) of shareholders and individuals, and ultimately make elected officials ever more beholden to them.

Boardroom executives must not be permitted to raid the corporate coffers to promote personal political beliefs or to curry personal favor with elected politicians.  That result is bad for corporations, bad for shareholders, and bad for government.  We must ensure that the corporation speaks with the voice of its shareholders.  And we must ensure that those who would utilize the corporate form to magnify their political influence do not do so for improper personal gain or to impose the will of a foreign power on American citizens.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has left us without the tools to directly effect any of these compelling public interests.

The DISCLOSE Act can’t entirely undo the activism of the Roberts Court and shut off the spigot of corrupting corporate funds.  But it will serve as a bulwark against the flood of corporate money and help resolve the open questions created by the Court in Citizens United

The Act will shine a spotlight on corporate spending and prevent corporations from speaking anonymously by increasing disclosure and strengthening transparency in federal campaigns.  

Not only does the Act require corporations, organizations, and special interest groups to stand by their political advertising like a candidate running for office, but CEOs will be required to identify themselves in their advertisements, and corporations and organizations will be required to disclose their political expenditures.  

Directors of public companies may still be able to hijack shareholder money to promote their own narrow interests.  But thanks to the DISCLOSE Act, shareholders will be able to determine when they have done so.

The Act will prevent foreign-controlled corporations from secretly manipulating elections by funneling money to front groups to fund last minute attack ads and other anonymous election advertisements.
 
If we fail to respond to the threat that the Citizens United decision poses to our democracy, then I fear that the public’s confidence in its government will continue to erode, precisely when bold congressional action is needed.  Our ability to meet our nation’s pressing needs depends on our ability to earn and maintain the public’s trust.

Earning that trust will be all the more difficult in a world in which undiluted corporate money is allowed to drown out the voices of individual citizens and corrupt the political process."

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