Eight former FEC commissioners, including me, have sent a letter to Congress criticizing the DISCLOSE Act, which was introduced by Senator Schumer and Representative Van Hollen at the end of April. The bill is specifically designed to try to overturn the Supreme Court’s First Amendment decision in Citizens United v. FEC.
DISCLOSE stands for “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections,” but, as former FEC Chairman Brad Smith says, DISCLOSE should stand for “Democratic Incumbents Seeking to Contain Losses by Outlawing Speech in Elections.”
This bill is a morass of confusing, duplicative, unnecessary, and onerous provisions that are clearly designed to deter political speech and political advocacy, particularly criticism of incumbents like Schumer and Van Hollen. Despite claims to the contrary, it also abandons the longstanding policy of treating unions and businesses equally, which highlights the partisan motives underlying the bill. A press release about the letter is available here, as is copy of the detailed letter, which outlines all of the problems with the New Sedition Act — the title that I think would be more appropriate than “DISCLOSE.”