Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor on the DISCLOSE Act, legislation to reign in dark money. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:
In the twelve years since the conservatives on the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United, our elections have become rank – rank – with the stench of dark money.
Soon, the Senate will vote to erase this foulness when we hold the first procedural vote to take up the DISCLOSE Act. This has been a long time coming, and credit goes to Senator Whitehouse, perhaps the Senate’s most valiant enemy of dark money. I commend him, I thank him, and I stand with him in his efforts to shine a light on the corrosive power of dark money in our elections. No one has done more to shine the light on this evil – evil – thing.
In free and fair elections – one person, one vote – American voters should alone have the power to determine the nation’s leaders, without fear that their voices will be drowned out by powerful elites or special interests.
Sadly, unfortunately, dark money has rendered this ideal a fantasy. The idea of one person, one vote has been washed away by cascades of dark, undisclosed money pouring into our electoral system. Today the average American—someone who might chip in thirty dollars or fifty dollars every now and then to support a candidate—is left practically powerless against billionaires and special interests who can cut million dollar checks to promote candidates of their choice. Who here thinks that is a healthy democracy?
Because of today’s broken campaign finance laws, many of these donations happen entirely in secret. It is a vail cast over our democracy that leaves vast majorities of voters blind.
And the problem is not just limited to our elections. Dark money has also corroded the judicial nomination process, as special interest groups spend tens of millions to push extremist judges onto the federal bench. I believe that the awful decision in Dobbs was greatly affected by the fact that dark money is undisclosed.
The DISCLOSE Act operates off a simple premise: a healthy democracy is a transparent democracy, one where billionaires and mega-corporations don’t get a free pass to exploit loopholes in campaign finance law in order to spend billions in anonymous contributions. That is the antithesis of democracy.
This shouldn’t be a Democratic or Republican view.
After all, when was the last time any of us heard voters celebrate the spread of dark money?
When one the last time any of us heard voters say it’s better for billionaires and special interests to buy elections in secret, rather than be accountable to the public?
Of course, the public doesn’t think that! Unless they themselves, the few, are cutting million dollar checks in secret.
Even the Republican Leader, who has dedicated much of his career to killing many campaign reforms, used to say in the distant past that disclosure and transparency is a good thing for elections.
Unfortunately that was a long time ago, and now all we hear from the other side are the absurd—and these are truly absurd—arguments that transparency somehow equates to suppressing freedom of expression. Tying logic and fairness into a pretzel knot to say that transparency is like we're suppressing freedom of expression is absurd!
Imagine, imagine this: imagine being on the side of millionaires and billionaires who would no longer have the luxury of influencing our elections by cutting million dollar checks in total anonymity! What a tragedy! Isn't that a shame? These poor billionaires and millionaires might have to disclose what they're doing!
Of course, of course, imagining being on the side of those millionaires and billionaires is ridiculous. If a multibillionaire wants to spend colossal sums on candidates who are deeply anti-choice, or who support insurrectionists, which some of these dark money special interest MAGA Republicans do, shouldn’t the public have a right at least to know? Simply to know it?
If someone wants to come here on the floor and argue otherwise, God help our democracy.
Louis Brandeis said over a century ago that sunlight is the best of disinfectants. The DISCLOSE Act would put that into practice.
So, if you agree that the American people have a right to know who is trying to influence their elections, support the DISCLOSE Act.
If you agree that America’s representatives should only have one boss—the people, and not special interests—then support the DISCLOSE Act.
Democracy cannot prosper without transparency. Dark money, hidden secrets are the hallmark of dictatorships, left and right. We in democracy need transparency.
I thank Senator Whitehouse for all he has done. I strongly support passing this legislation, to keep the dream of our founders alive in this century.