Two unrelated observations that come together in this case:
Who is in charge of naming legislation that produces such memorable acronyms? The latest is the DISCLOSE Act, short for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections
Any time you can get 300 organizations to agree on something, it must be at an extreme — in this case the bad end of the spectrum
DISCLOSE is the 2010 version of card check, attempting to penalize business voices at the expense of unions. Card check dealt with union elections; DISCLOSE seeks to circumvent a Supreme Court decision and attack First Amendment rights by limiting the business voice in political elections.
The 300-plus organizations (chambers, economic development groups, associations and more) represent businesses of all types and size across the country. They combined to send a letter to all members of the U.S. House. A couple of excerpts below, and here is the full letter:
The legislation’s sponsors admit that the bill’s purpose is to deter corporations from participating in the political process. Senator Schumer has said the bill will make corporations “think twice” before attempting to influence election outcomes, and that this “deterrent effect should not be underestimated.”
Its provisions include a blanket prohibition on election-related speech by certain government contractors. Thousands of corporations regularly participate in contracts with the federal government; under Schumer – Van Hollen, many of them are categorically barred from making their political views known. The bill imposes no comparable restrictions on labor unions that receive federal grants, negotiate collective bargaining agreements with the government, or have international affiliates, even though unions and their political action committees are the single largest contributor to political campaigns and claim to have spent nearly $450 million in the 2008 presidential race.
Look at most polls and you’ll see voters are in a surly mood and wanting to boot incumbents out of office. So no one should have been surprised that congressional leadership wants to move fast to pass new restrictions on speech by those who might disagree with them.
It’s called the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections, or “DISCLOSE Act.” A long and cute title, but the bill is really designed to put duct tape over the mouths of businesses and trade associations. Labor unions and trial lawyers get a pass in the bill, an important preferential treatment with real election impacts.
For-profit corporations doing federal contract business, taking TARP money, or with as little as 20% overseas ownership would be flatly shut-out of making campaign communications. CEOs of any other corporations who tried to speak up would have to go on camera in any advertisement saying they approved the ad and could face criminal complaints. Independent expenditure ads by businesses and associations would be blocked from being on the air from April through November in Indiana.
For decades, federal campaign finance rules and “reform” packages like McCain-Feingold were crafted with some balance for corporations and labor unions. The DISCLOSE Act abandons this important balance and bipartisanship. There was no attempt at a bipartisan approach here, particularly with the current chair of the House Democrat Campaign Committee (Rep. Van Hollen) and immediate past chair of the Senate campaign committee (Sen. Chuck Schumer) actually authoring the bill.
Businesses and trade associations have First Amendment free speech rights, as reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Citizens United ruling last year. That pesky First Amendment getting in the way of politicians again.