The Corner

The Fight over the DISCLOSE Act Is Far from Over

Ignoring the First Amendment and trampling on the Constitution, an overwhelming majority of Democrats in the House passed the DISCLOSE Act this afternoon on a 219 to 206 vote. Two Republicans, Rep. Mike Castle (R., Del.) and Joseph Cao (R., La.), crossed party lines to vote in favor of government censorship. Thirty-six Democrats actually voted against the bill, including twelve members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were still upset over the special exemption given to the NRA. That exemption was weakened to include a couple of other organizations like the Sierra Club and the AARP, both staunch champions of liberal causes.

Not only did the House approve the amendment sponsored by Dennis Kucinich that would plug the mouth of anyone who holds a lease on the Outer Continental Shelf, but it also inserted yet another exemption for unions. The act has a provision that requires the reporting of transfers of more than $50,000 among affiliate organizations if the money is used to pay for election ads. This would obviously cover transfers from national unions to their locals, something that happens all the time — unions are infamous for the fungibility of their financial arrangements and the flowing of funds between their affiliates for political purposes.

But, of course, it is too much to ask that unions abide by such a transfer-disclosure requirement, so the Democrats approved an exemption: the $50,000 trigger does not include any “funds attributable to dues, fees, or assessments which are paid by individuals on a regular, periodic basis.” In other words, union dues that are all collected on a periodic basis don’t count. And who sponsored this exemption? Why none other than House Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Brady (D., Pa.). And who were the top five political contributors to Brady from 1998 to 2010? The Plumbers/Pipefitters Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Carpenters & Joiners Union, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Laborers Union gave him over $330,000.

This bill will now move to the Senate, where its sponsor, Chuck Schumer, has said this is a high priority. The prospects are good that the Republicans will be able to find the 41 votes needed to stop this assault on liberty through a filibuster, especially since one of the chief Republican supporters of campaign-finance reform in the past, John McCain, has so far not signed on to this latest attack on our liberty (and I am told that he won’t, because he does not consider this bill to be reform). One battle has been lost, but the war still rages on, and there are better prospects for winning on the second front.  

Hans A. von Spakovsky — Heritage Foundation – As a Senior Legal Fellow and Manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Hans von Spakovsky concentrates on voting, ...

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