Mr. WHITEHOUSE. May I follow up on the points that Senator Merkley made. The comparison he made to the constitutional change that took the Senate from election by State legislators to direct election by the people is very much a model for what is happening here. There was a desire to get the vote away from the special interests and put it in the hands of the actual people.
Here it is a desire to get the spending, the money behind the vote, out of the hands of the special interests and back to the people. What Citizens United did was to go backwards, open the flood gates of special interest money, and allow it to be secret. Try to put ordinary voters up against that kind of a force. It is not fair to ordinary voters. It is not right. In some respects it puts the right they are taking up inside out, and that is the right of freedom of speech.
I think we all have seen the four freedoms, the posters by Norman Rockwell. Perhaps the most famous of those posters is the one of the fellow in the tan windbreaker jacket, a thin guy. He is standing up tall surrounded by people, clearly at a townhall meeting. Why is he standing and what is he doing? He is speaking. He is having his say.
The way Citizens United worked out, they are basically saying we do not have a constitutional right to speak. We have a constitutional right to listen. We have a constitutional right to listen when big money speaks. It is essentially a shut-up-and-listen-to-the-big-money version of the first amendment. When money is speech, which is the principle of Citizens United, guess what. Those with the most money get the most speech.
Those who do not have a lot of money do not get a lot of speech, and those who have no money get no speech. That is not what the Founders intended. So there is a strong similarity between the move to take the vote and put it in popular hands and what we are trying to do with disclosure, which is put the money in popular hands. We cannot do that under Citizens United.
With the DISCLOSE Act, at least you know what is going on. You can look at the game that is being played. It is cards up on the table. If you are being denied the ability to speak on even terms with the CEO or a billionaire or a major corporation or some big lobbying group, at least you have the right to know what they are doing, what they are saying, what is going on. You can keep score. When you get together, you can get mad and do something about it.
Behind the veil of secrecy you cannot even keep score. You do not know what is going on.