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Free Speech On The Line With Today's DISCLOSE Act Vote

Free Speech On The Line With Today’s DISCLOSE Act Vote

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By Tom Tillison
Orlando Political Press

Senator Chuck Shumer (D) is working very hard to find one Republican that will support the DISCLOSE Act, which is scheduled to come to the floor today for a cloture vote, effectively ending a Republican filibuster. 

The bill was developed in response to a Supreme Court ruling revoking many of the nation’s campaign finance laws and would make special-interest groups disclose their top donors if they broadcast ads or blast out mass mailings in the months leading up to an election, among other restrictions. 

But it includes several exemptions for large interest groups, including the National Rifle Association, Sierra Club, and labor unions.

And, some wonder why the NRA is suddenly warming up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)?  In the spirit of the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’, could this be the CYA by the NRA?

US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue on Monday blasted Reid for moving forward on the Disclose Act.  “The fact that this assault to the First Amendment is being considered as millions are desperately looking for work is a complete outrage,” he said in prepared remarks.

“Despite their best efforts, there is no back room dark enough, no partisan motive strong enough, and no cynicism profound enough to barter away Americans’ freedom of speech.”

Of course, Reid and Schumer are fishing the same New England waters for this one Republican vote, although it appears that he can cross one of the three targets off, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

“The bill would provide a clear and unfair advantage to unions, while either shutting other organizations out of the election process or subjecting them to onerous reporting requirements that would not apply to unions,” Collins’ press secretary Kevin Kelley told ABC News.

“Senator Collins also believes that it is ironic that a bill aimed at curtailing special interests in the election process provides so many carve outs and exemptions that favor some grassroots organizations over others. This too is simply unfair.”

With recent history as a guide, we know not to count out these ‘moderate’ Republicans from falling in step with the Progressive Left, even when they tell us they won’t.  See Scott Brown and Financial Reform.

According to FreedomWorks, two pieces of the DISCLOSE Act look like specific attacks on the Tea Party movement.  It is widely known that this decentralized movement is largely made up of individuals who are new to political activism and simply organizing with like minded members of their community to do what they can for a country they love.

But the DISCLOSE Act puts in place ambiguous guidelines that will leave many, especially smaller groups without the funds to pay for expensive campaign law attorneys, wondering whether or not they are violating the new rules.  When changing the rules of political participation, Congress should err on the side of encouraging participation, not discouraging it with ambiguous legalese that only empowers lawyers. 
 
The DISCLOSE Act goes even further and expands the period of time during which those trying to participate in our democracy may violate new, confusing laws.  In an election year when a record number of Americans may participate, this act expands the “electioneering communications” period.  That’s the number of days before elections when politicians have decided they want to control free speech.  This bill says those limits would go from 60 days before an election to 120 days.  Those are exactly the days when participation should be encouraged.

The Democrats are running scared, fearful of the impact grassroots activists will have in November. With the DISCLOSE Act, which will go into effect almost immediately, in time for the November elections, they will be able to effectively and legally shut the movement down.

Tom Tillison

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