On July 27, 2010 the Senate failed to advance the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act (“DISCLOSE Act”). The leaders of the Democratic Party including Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Chuck Schumer, and President Barack Obama crafted the legislation to silence speakers whose rights were restored by the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC.
While Congressional leaders spent six months reacting to the Citizens United decision our economy continued to teeter on the brink. The liberal elites focused their energies on the DISCLOSE Act rather than focusing on meaningful fiscal policy to help strengthen our economy.
Reid and Schumer had planned to pass the DISCLOSE Act by the Fourth of July so that they could regulate and silence political speakers in the November elections. Once this was no longer a viable option, I assumed they would return to the business of promoting economic growth, saving jobs, and preventing massive tax increases from stifling our economy.
Unfortunately they haven’t gotten the message. Instead of addressing the issues most concerning the American public Senator Schumer has vowed to “go back at this bill again and again and again until we pass it.” Senator Schumer isn’t the only one still fixated on Citizens United.
Having chastised the Supreme Court during the State of the Union for their decision, as well as praising Elena Kagan for her work arguing Citizens United, President Obama has committed himself to the fight against free speech. Just this week, President Obama again sought to demagogue the issue during a fundraising event:
“And part of what’s happened in this landscape is the Supreme Court — those of you who don’t think the Supreme Court matters, their ruling in Citizens United, which said that corporations, including potentially foreign corporations, can go ahead and spend unlimited amounts without disclosing who they are during election season — means that you’re going to have a whole bunch of organizations like Americans for Prosperity — (laughter) — spending millions of dollars trying to roll back reforms that we’ve initiated. And you won’t even know who they are, because right now the law says they don’t have to disclose who they are.”
President Obama’s recent rhetoric is more calculated than that used in the State of the Union address. His allegations that “the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections” have in large part been refuted as evidenced by his own remarks.
In reality the DISCLOSE Act will silence political speech by imposing a burdensome new reporting regime as well as raising the costs of political speech through expanded disclaimer requirements. Though it will chill speech President Obama continues to defend the legislation as “the least we can do is, on behalf of our democracy.”
Instead of trying to silence political speech Congress and the President should focus on the economy. This is a message that should resonate with Harry Reid. After all, since Harry Reid became Senate Majority Leader unemployment in Nevada has more than tripled, going from 4.4% to 14.2%. Rather than fret over how the American public may exercise their right to political speech during this election cycle, it’s time our elected representatives focus on the real issues.