WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor in support of the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would increase transparency and disclosure of political spending, which passed the House today. Below are his remarks:
“I rise in strong support of the DISCLOSE Act. For more than a century, Mr. Speaker, America has limited the role of private money in public elections. We have done so because we believe that if huge sums of money from unknown sources dominate elections, the interest of ordinary citizens are too often the victim.
“America's work toward open and fair elections took a severe blow this winter when the Supreme Court voted in the Citizens United case to overturn long-standing precedent and allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts of their treasury funds to influence elections directly.
“The First Amendment is sacred; it makes our country not only unique, but one of the freest countries the world has ever seen. Yet without transparency, without knowing the source of the speech that you hear, voters’ ability to make informed choices is severely compromised. As we’ve all said from time to time, ‘consider the source.’ But if we don’t know the source, we can’t consider the source; and if we can’t consider the source, we do not know the validity of the information that is transmitted to us. That is the key to this legislation: not that a corporation or a union can’t try to influence the American public—but that we ought to make sure that citizens know who is talking to them. Otherwise they will not have the ability to make a judgment on the credibility of the information they are receiving.
“That is a goal that many of my colleagues, including my Republican colleagues, have supported in the past. My friend, Minority Whip Eric Cantor, said: ‘Anything that moves us back towards the notion of transparency and real-time reporting of donations and contributions, I think, would be a helpful move towards restoring the confidence of voters.’
“Former Speaker Gingrich said that in an ideal system, ‘The country knows where the money is coming from. That would be transparent, simple, and fair.’
“Minority Leader Boehner said this: ‘I think what we ought to do is we ought to have full disclosure, full disclosure of all the money that we raise and how it is spent.’
“That is exactly what we are saying in this bill. When I receive a 30-second ad on television, who is talking to me? How are they spending their money? What special interest is behind this ad, and what does it want? As a voter, I need to know who is talking to me.
“In closing, I want to thank Chairman Brady for the outstanding leadership he has shown in bringing this bill to the floor. And my friend and colleague from the State of Maryland, Chris Van Hollen, has been tireless in his work on behalf of the DISCLOSE Act. With this bill in place, America's elections will be fairer, and our people will be better informed about the vital decisions that are in their hands.”