Grijalva: Bring 'dark money' donors into the light
U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva delivered this speech Wednesday on the floor of the House of Representatives about the need for greater political contribution transparency and the National Federation of Independent Business’ refusal to disclose anything about its finances or how it operates:
Money has taken over our political process. Big corporations and high-rolling political schemers tell us everything is still mom and apple pie, and there's nothing to worry about. But some of us have seen the effects of these hidden million-dollar dark money donations. We've seen the ads that tell you what to think – without telling you who's talking. We've seen the multi-million-dollar lawsuits that help elite corporate interests – without explaining who's paying the bill. We've seen more and more elections bought and paid for by the only people who can afford it. They're not us.
Today it's time to start naming names and asking why these people won't tell us who they are. Today we fight back and ask them what they have to hide.
A front group called the National Federation of Independent Business is suing to block the Affordable Care Act. The president of the group says he's doing this to help small businesses. When I and my colleague, Rep. Keith Ellison, wrote him a letter asking him who his members are, he refused to answer. We asked him who gave him several recent million-dollar-plus donations that have helped fund his lawsuit. He refused to answer. We asked him why Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS political group gave him $3.7 million just when he started that lawsuit. He refused to answer.
He thinks that's good enough. Well guess what, it's not.
NFIB has never liked answering questions. In 2006, according to an article in the Nashville Scene, NFIB claimed 600,000 member businesses nationwide. Today, on its website, it claims about 300,000. But when we asked NFIB to disclose where its money comes from, instead of providing us the courtesy of a written response, the group told the press that its membership has been growing by leaps and bounds since the lawsuit began. It described shrinking by fifty percent as a big new expansion, and it said new members had made small donations that covered the cost of this complex lawsuit before the Supreme Court.
In other words, NFIB won't tell the truth about who it represents or how big it is. What does it have to hide?
Our democracy has always been about people. It's been about individuals and families making choices about who represents their interests. It's about what kind of country we want to live in, not about what kind of country the very wealthy choose for us. Today, as we prepare for the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans with pre-existing health conditions, with sick children, with long-term medical needs, and with no insurance, stand together on one side. A front group with bottomless pockets that won't explain its motives sits on the other.
This is not what our democracy is supposed to be about. Our founding fathers did not believe wealth makes a man more important than his neighbor. They didn't believe money is more important than the dignity of the individual. They didn't believe any company or any organization is entitled to a special set of rules. They certainly didn't believe that an incorporated business entity is the same thing as a human being.
There's no reason we have to accept the choices the very wealthy few in this country are making for the rest of us. Today we stand up to be counted and we demand that dark money donations come to light. That anyone who wants to influence our democracy step forward and state his name for the record. Democracy is not for sale, and an election is not an auction. I'm proud to stand here today, on the floor of the House, and call myself a friend to working American men and women who just want to know their votes still count more than big dollars do. I'm proud to stand here and name names, even if the big money out there doesn't like it. I'm proud to say I'd rather have the American people behind me – and they are – than have every rich dark money donor in the country calling me up for favors.
I challenge these front groups to put up or shut up. Tell us who's funding you and what you really want. It's four months and change until America elects a new Congress. Let the voters decide, not your fat cat friends. They know where I stand. Where do you stand?
U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva represents Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District.