For those of us who welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which restored First Amendment rights confiscated by federal campaign-finance laws, watching the progress of the DISCLOSE Act in Congress is depressing.
The “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act” (H.R. 5175) was approved in the House Administration Committee on May 20 on a party-line vote. In addition to the fact that it is filled with onerous, burdensome, and unnecessary provisions, it is extremely tilted against corporations in favor of unions. The intentional partisanship and one-sided nature of this was demonstrated by the defeat of a series of amendments in the committee mark-up that were proposed by Republicans. This included an amendment by Rep. Dan Lungren (R., Calif.) that would have extended the prohibition on government contractors to any unions that have representational contracts with the government, as well as an amendment by Rep. Gregg Harper (R., Miss.) that would have extended the same ban to any other recipient of government grants, such as the liberal groups that receive so many federal earmarks and other funds. When Lungren tried to extend the political activity ban on corporations with foreign shareholders or corporate directors to unions that receive dues from foreign nationals, that was also rejected.
Anyone interested in watching elected officials voting in favor of government censorship can watch the mark up here.
The bill is scheduled to be considered in the House Rules Committee at 3:00 p.m. today, and the full House of Representatives could vote on the bill as early as this Friday. It will then be up to the Senate to stop the latest infringement of our rights to engage in political speech and political advocacy. If it passes Congress, there will be a whole new round of litigation challenging Schumer’s bill.
As I have said elsewhere, it amazes me how campaign-finance proposals like this one are always portrayed by the media as a way of supposedly “reforming” the election system, when in fact they are usually motivated by partisanship. The sponsors of the bill seem to lack a basic understanding of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the master blueprint of American democracy or they just don’t care as long as they think they can get a political advantage out of the law.