The Corner

Debating (or Not) the DISCLOSE Act

The House Rules Committee met yesterday to set the rules for debate on the DISCLOSE Act. True to form, the committee kept the public out of a hearing about a bill intended to promote “transparency” in elections.

According to the Center for Competitive Politics, they sent one of their staffers to attend the hearing, but she was barred from entry. Apparently, as CCP pointedly said, “their version of democracy wasn’t strong enough to allow regular folks to attend their rubber-stamp hearing for the bill.”

The Rules Committee decided to allow only one hour of debate before a vote, which will probably occur either Thursday or Friday. All GOP motions, including one to extend the debate to four hours, were rejected. The Democrats believe that only one hour of free speech is needed before voting on a bill that will severely restrict free speech.

An effort to allow a vote on eliminating the NRA exemption was defeated, thus guaranteeing a two-tiered system of First Amendment rules for political speech. The Democratic leadership will only allow floor votes on five amendments. The first would require covered organizations to report required disclosures to shareholders, members, and donors in a “clear and conspicuous manner.” The second would prohibit any company with leases on the Outer Continental Shelf from making campaign-related expenditures. In other words, Congress would silence companies that are in favor of oil and gas drilling, but not the critics of offshore drilling. One could not find a starker example of how this bill is intended to silence those whose political views the liberals don’t like.

A third amendment covers corporations with significant ownership by foreign governments or foreign nationals; a fourth amendment would force disclaimers on advertisements to include the city and state of the funder’s residence or principle office. This will lengthen the required disclaimers even more — even the ACLU says that these new disclaimer requirements are so burdensome that “they would either drown out the intended message or discourage groups from speaking out at all.”

The Rules Committee majority also agreed to allow a vote on an amendment by Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa) that would lift all limits on federal campaign contributions. There is no doubt the House majority will defeat this amendment and then claim that they were trying to “clean up” elections while the “anti-reform” Republicans wanted to blow out the limits on campaign contributions.

Do these members of the majority not understand their oath to support the Constitution, including the First Amendment, or do they just not care?

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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