Archive for Disclose Act

House Passes DISCLOSE Act: Pro-Life/Grassroots Muzzle Bill Goes to Senate

Posted in free speech, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2010 by saynsumthn

Critics on both left and right say act will disable grassroots political voices, including Tea Party movement

By Peter J. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 24, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – With a political audacity that has become characteristic since the caustic health care debates, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve a campaign finance disclosure bill that critics on both the left and the right say will disable grassroots political voices – including the nascent “Tea Party” movement that has been looking to sweep away liberal incumbents in November.

At approximately 4:30 p.m., the House voted 219-206 to approve H.R. 5175, the “Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act,” which the National Right to Life Committee, other pro-life, pro-family groups, and even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have condemned as a threat to free speech and free participation in the political process. (See how your representative voted here.)

The Act would force grassroots organizations to release the names of donors and members into a publicly searchable database maintained by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Opponents of the bill say it would frustrate the ability of grassroots entities to communicate effectively with the public about public policy.
“This is a blatant attack on our organizations, members, and donors,” said Douglas Johnson, NRLC’s Legislative Director. “National Right to Life will do everything possible to keep this bill from coming out of the Senate.”

Johnson said that stopping the Senate from approving its version (S 3295) of the DISCLOSE Act is “a jump ball.”

“I think we have to take it very seriously. There are already 50 cosponsors of the bill in the Senate. But as you know, the Senate has different rules, and we will certainly do our best to persuade any Senator who will listen that this bill is unconstitutional, unprincipled, and nakedly partisan.”

Should the Senate approve the DISCLOSE Act, and should it be signed into law by President Barack Obama, the act would take effect in 30 days, even if the Federal Elections Commission has not yet crafted new guidelines – just in time for the mid-term elections in November.

During the one-hour debate on the bill, Rep. Dan Lungren expressed outrage that unlike every other campaign finance bill passed by the House, this bill has no provision for expedited judicial review. He said the lack of such a provision makes it clear the DISCLOSE Act is meant to influence the outcome of the 2010 midterm elections.
He also expressed frustration that so little time was given the House to debate a matter impacting Americans’ First Amendment rights.

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“We have spent 40 hours in this Congress naming post offices. Can’t we spend a little time protecting the Constitution of the United States?” Lungren exclaimed.
“We’re talking about political speech: the essence of the First Amendment.”

Under the bill, all groups subject to the law’s requirements – including most 501(c)4, 501(c)5, 501(c)6, and 527 groups – would have to list all donors of $600 or more with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Groups must also post a hyperlink on their website to the FEC, where a list of the names of their donors can be accessed.
But the DISCLOSE Act exempts large 501(c)4 groups – like the 4 million strong NRA and 750,000 member Sierra Club – from having to report their donors if they have at least 500,000 members, over 10 years of existence, chapters in all 50 states, and receive no more than 15% of total contributions from corporations.

Unions also have significant exemptions. Most union dues are under $600 dollars, and so do not have to be reported. Union to union money transfers also do not have to be disclosed.

In a letter to Congress, the ACLU noted the irony that a bill ostensibly dedicated to uprooting corruption in the political process would exempt entrenched “mainstream” political interests from its reporting requirements, while “smaller organizations and those just starting out would have to disclose their donors in order to engage in political speech.”

“Those groups not challenging the status quo would be protected; those challenging the status quo would be suppressed,” they concluded.

House members had virtually no time to read the final version of the bill approved yesterday behind closed doors by the House Rules Committee. Instead of waiting for Congressmen and their staff to analyze the final bill, the Democrat leadership forced through today’s vote today by invoking a “Martial Law Rule.”

The Martial Law Rule dispenses with a longstanding House rule (Rule XIII(6)(a)) intended to give U.S. Representatives and the public enough time to understand significant legislation. The rule requires that there be at least one day between a bill’s unveiling and the House floor vote, and can only be suspended if two-thirds of the House agrees – but the Martial Law Rule dispenses with that process entirely.

Critics on both the left and the right have denounced the tactic, saying it empowers a party’s leadership to act in an authoritarian manner and endangers democratic self-government by forcing members to vote blindly on measures demanded by their leaders.

The bill requires that every time an organization runs a campaign ad, its CEO must appear in the ad and twice state his name and the organization’s name. The top five funders of the organization behind the ad – even if they had nothing to do with the ad’s funding – must also have their names listed in the ad.

In addition, the most “significant” donor to the organization must list his name, rank, and organization three times in the ad.

Critics of the bill say that the disclaimers effectively devour valuable airtime bought by these groups that would otherwise be used to inform voters about a candidate’s record.

“We’re getting a little silly here. We’re talking about making disclaimers that are going to take the entire time of a commercial,” stated Rep. Lungren during debate.
He also expressed grave concern that individuals – with names and addresses publicly available – would be subject to reprisals for making a political statement. He pointed to the situation in California, where supporters of Proposition 8 have been victims of reprisals by homosexualist activists.

“We are chilling speech already, and now we are getting into direct intimidation by requiring the residence of people living there,” he said.

Other affected entities under the bill will likely include vocal liberal and conservative groups that communicate through the internet. While traditional media organizations like newspapers and television stations are exempt from the bill, bloggers, the vanguard of the “new media,” are not.

How representatives voted – click here.
Contact information for the U.S. House of Representatives – click here.
Contact information for the U.S. Senate – click here.

See related coverage by LifeSiteNews.com:
Breaking: House Dems Preparing Thursday DISCLOSE Act Vote to Muzzle Pro-life, Pro-family Groups
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/jun/10062313.html
Congress to Vote on DISCLOSE Act – Condemned by Pro-Life, Pro-Family Groups
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/jun/10061707.html

Speech License is really Gag on Free Speech: Congress passes Disclose Act

Posted in Constitution, free speech with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2010 by saynsumthn

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Congress Votes to Stifle Political Speech 6/24/2010
The DISCLOSE Act is the work of tyrants

Washington, D.C. —Concerned Women for America condemns, the passage of the DISCLOSE Act in the House of Representatives today. Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, stated:

“The DISCLOSE Act is designed to stifle Americans’ legitimate right to political speech and carves out exceptions for powerful special interest groups and unions. It places onerous regulations on small business owners and grassroots groups if they attempt to educate the public on candidates and issues.

“The politicians who voted for this bill have put themselves on record as being against an essential tool through which America came to be a country — the public communication of political views. The brave founders of our country used the public means of their day to inform and persuade citizens, anonymously when so desired. This raw grab for power in an attempt to silence opposition by burdening citizens with regulations is the work of tyrants.”

The DISCLOSE Act requires organizations to name their top donors in ads that mention candidates — even if the donors did not fund the ads. Their CEOs must appear in the ad and twice state their name and the organization’s name. The most “significant” donor must list his name, rank, and organization three times in the ad, and the names of all donors who give $600 or more to the organization must be handed over to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Groups must post a link on their website to the FEC, where a list of their donors’ names can be accessed. It also bans election-related communications 90 days before the primaries up till the general election.

Read More : Congress to Vote on DISCLOSE Act – Condemned by Pro-Life, Pro-Family Groups

And Bad Aim? NRA shoots 1 to save 2 – free speech deal

Congress to Vote on DISCLOSE Act – Condemned by Pro-Life, Pro-Family Groups

Posted in free speech, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2010 by saynsumthn

By Peter J. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 17, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress is preparing to vote on a new campaign finance bill, the so-called “Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act.” Pro-life and pro-family groups are feverishly campaigning against the act, saying it will have a chilling effect on political free speech, especially with mid-term elections just around the corner.

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to mark up the DISCLOSE Act (HR 5175), sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, on Thursday, making it ready for a full floor vote as early as Friday.

A few weeks ago the bill seemed dead, but Democrats brought it back after striking a deal Monday that would exempt the powerful National Rifle Association from the requirements of the bill in exchange for their neutrality.

The bill forces groups, including most 501(c)4, 501(c)5, 501(c)6, and 527 groups, to comply with what pro-life groups call “onerous” reporting requirements. These would disclose the donors and members of their organizations, and frustrate the ability of grassroots entities to communicate effectively with the public about public policy.
“There is no principle embodied in this legislation other than crude political advantage. They are trying to temporarily disable their critics,” Douglas Johnson, Legislative Director for the National Right to Life Committee, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN).

“By design it’s a crippling cluster-bomb of legal traps for groups that dare to speak about those in federal offices. What triggers these regulations? When you mention the name of a congressman; when you express an opinion about a congressman.”

The NRA deal – since modified to cover organizations such as the Sierra Club – exempts 501(c)4 groups from having to report their donors if they have at least 500,000 members, over 10 years of existence, chapters in all 50 states, and receive no more than 15% of total contributions from corporations. The NRA has over 4 million members; the environmentalist Sierra Club has 750,000 members.

The deal leaves smaller and more numerous grassroots organizations, in particular the pro-life, pro-family movement and the decentralized conservative “Tea Party” movement, out in the cold.

In a letter to CWA activists Shari Rendall, Director of Legislation and Public Policy for Concerned Women for America, warned that the regulations would “all but eliminate grassroots advocacy.”

Rendall told LifeSiteNews.com in an email that the bill is the worst thing since McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, which the Supreme Court effectively gutted in January’s Citizens United decision.

“It is simply designed to undermine the recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling that said Congress may not prohibit funding of political speech by corporations, labor unions, and nonprofit groups – groups like CWA,” she said. “The intent is to limit speech from any group that funds ads advocating an election or defeat of a candidate.”

Under the bill, all groups subject to the law’s requirements would have to list all donors of $600 or more with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Groups must also post a hyperlink on their website to the FEC, where a list of the names of their donors can be accessed.

Furthermore, every time an organization runs a campaign ad, its CEO must appear in the ad and state not once, but twice, his name and the organization’s name. The top 5 funders of the organization behind the ad – even if they had nothing to do with the ad’s funding – must also have their names listed in the ad.

In addition, the most “significant” donor to the organization must list his name, rank, and organization 3 times in the ad. Critics of the bill say that the disclaimers effectively consume valuable air time bought by these groups that would otherwise be used to inform voters about a candidate’s record.

Johnson agreed that one of the intents of the bill was to dry up many of the funding sources of grassroots groups by intimidating donors away from the political process.
“It’s to deter citizens from supporting organizations that speak out on controversial issues,” he said.

“Look what happened out in California,” added Johnson, pointing to what happened when the names of petition signers and contributors to Prop. 8, the traditional marriage amendment, became publicly searchable.

“There were business members subject to reprisal campaigns, people’s jobs were threatened, some people lost their jobs – all sorts of abuse and for what purpose? To deter people in the future from donating to such a cause,” he said.

Other affected entities will likely include vocal liberal and conservative groups that communicate through the internet. While traditional media organizations like newspapers and television stations are exempt from the bill, bloggers, the vanguard of the “new media,” are not.

The bill also expands the definition of electioneering communications, stating that it begins 120 days before a general election, instead of the current 60 days.
Once passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama, the act would take effect in 30 days, even if the Federal Elections Commission has not yet crafted new guidelines – just in time for the mid-term elections in November.

H.R. 5175, and its Senate version (S 3295), sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), both contain a “severability clause” that will keep parts of the bill alive, if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down any section of the bill.

To find contact information for the U.S. House of Representatives visit here: http://www.house.gov/
To find contact information for the U.S. Senate visit here: http://www.senate.gov/

Bad Aim? NRA shoots 1 to save 2 – free speech deal

Posted in free speech with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2010 by saynsumthn

This is an editorial from the Washington Post and explains the title:

NRA exemption shows campaign disclosure bill’s cynical, fatal flaws

“[]The NRA — on whose board of directors I serve — rather than holding steadfastly to its historic principles of defending the Constitution and continuing its noble fight against government regulation of political speech instead opted for a political deal borne of self-interest in exchange for ‘neutrality’ from the legislation’s requirements.” — NRA Director Cleta Mitchell, June 17, 2010

By Cleta Mitchell
Thursday, June 17, 2010; A21

The cynical decision this week by House Democrats to exempt the National Rifle Association from the latest campaign finance regulatory scheme is itself a public disclosure. It reveals the true purpose of the perversely named Disclose Act (H.R. 5175): namely, to silence congressional critics in the 2010 elections.

The NRA “carve-out” reaffirms the wisdom of the First Amendment’s precise language: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.”

Congress can’t help itself. Since 1798, with the Alien and Sedition Acts, incumbent politicians have yearned for legal duct tape for their opponents’ mouths. The Disclose Act is a doozy of a muzzle.

For its part, the NRA — on whose board of directors I serve — rather than holding steadfastly to its historic principles of defending the Constitution and continuing its noble fight against government regulation of political speech instead opted for a political deal borne of self-interest in exchange for “neutrality” from the legislation’s requirements. In doing so, the NRA has, sadly, affirmed the notion held by congressional Democrats (and some Republicans), liberal activists, the media establishment and, at least for now, a minority on the Supreme Court that First Amendment protections are subject to negotiation. The Second Amendment surely cannot be far behind.

Since the court’s January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations cannot be constitutionally prohibited from making independent candidate-related expenditures, Democrats have been hyperventilating at the notion that corporations might spend millions of dollars criticizing them. To foreclose that possibility, the Disclose Act would impose onerous and complicated “disclosure” restrictions on organizations that dare to engage in constitutionally protected political speech and on corporations that dare to contribute to such organizations.

Democrats would effectively neuter the court’s decision by requiring the names of multiple donors to be recited in ads (thus shrinking the time spent on actual speech), requiring the CEO of a corporate donor to personally appear in campaign-related ads, expanding the coverage period to virtually the entire election year, and including myriad other rules that the NRA described last month as “byzantine” and an “arbitrary patchwork of reporting and disclosure requirements.”

The NRA’s wheel-squeaking bought it an exemption from those requirements. Tea Party organizations arising spontaneously since 2009? Out of luck. Online organizations with large e-mail followings but perhaps no formal dues structure? Forget it.

Receiving less attention than the NRA “carve-out” but no less cynical is the bill’s sop to organized labor: Aggregate contributions of $600 or more would be disclosed. Why start at $600? Why not $200 or, say, $500? Because most union members’ dues aggregate less than $600 in a calendar year and thus members’ contributions to labor’s campaign-related spending wouldn’t need to be disclosed . . . even to the union members whose dues are spent for political purposes.

In Citizens United, the court held that the First Amendment doesn’t permit Congress to treat different corporations differently; that the protections afforded political speech arise from the Constitution, not Congress. Otherwise, it would be tantamount to a congressional power to license the speech of some while denying it to others.

The NRA carve-out is a clear example of a congressional speech license.

The ostensible purpose of the legislation is benign “disclosure,” upheld in Citizens United as permissible under the First Amendment. Even conservative Justice Antonin Scalia has expressed skepticism about the constitutional infirmity of disclosure requirements in another case argued this term; Scalia intoned in oral argument that “running a democracy takes a certain amount of civic courage.”

That’s true. Indeed, the law upheld in Citizens United requires all donors to candidate-related expenditures to be publicly disclosed to the FEC in a timely manner.

But the Disclose Act isn’t really intended to elicit information not currently required by law. The act serves notice on certain speakers that their involvement in the political process will exact a high price of regulation, penalty and notoriety, using disclosure and reporting as a subterfuge to chill their political speech and association.

It is only disclosure, say the authors. And box-cutters are only handy household tools . . . until they are used by terrorists to crash airplanes.

This is not just “disclosure.” It is a scheme hatched by political insiders to eradicate disfavored speech. There is no room under the First Amendment for Congress to make deals on political speech, whether with the NRA or anyone else.

The writer is a partner at Foley & Lardner who works in campaign finance law and is a member of the NRA’s board of directors.