Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled a second vote on the DISCLOSE Act for Thursday. Rather than address the 14.4 percent unemployment in his home state of Nevada, he wants to regulate political speech through hastily cobbled together campaign finance legislation. This legislation would impose a burdensome new disclaimer and disclosure regime on speakers who seek to exercise their First Amendment right to political speech.
The DISCLOSE Act is a desperate attempt to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In Citizens United the Court embraced the First Amendment protection of political speech. Now groups of Americans may stand together and speak, regardless of whether they have sought the protection of a corporate form, labor union, or non-profit organization.
Fearful of how these groups of Americans may exercise this right, Senator Schumer, Representative Chris Van Hollen, and leaders of the Democratic Party sought to create a burdensome new disclosure and disclaimer regime to make it difficult for Americans to exercise these rights. Senator Schumer is hopeful that the legislation will result in fewer political ads being run.
The DISCLOSE Act was crafted behind closed doors with the input of Democratic lobbyists. Labor unions and large special interests groups including the National Rifle Association were afforded special exemptions from various provisions of the bill. This partisan legislation is an assault on the First Amendment, and principled conservative groups like Citizens United were right to oppose it.
Rather than working to restore our economy, President Obama, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer are fixated on a campaign finance bill that is little more than an incumbent protection effort. The renewed push for this legislation is simply a cheap political stunt. The legislation being voted on tomorrow has already been before the House and Senate earlier this year.
In the House of Representatives the DISCLOSE Act could only draw the support of two Republican members – one of whom is Mike Castle, who will not be returning to Congress in January. In the Senate the DISCLOSE Act couldn’t bolster 60 votes in July – even the most moderate Republicans in the Senate recognized the legislation was nothing more than a political effort to chill speech and reward special interests.
As the Senate again seeks to regulate speech, many of its Democratic leaders gathered in New York City for a high dollar fundraiser to benefit the House Senate Victory Fund. President Obama addressed the attendees who will pay between $2,500 and $15,200 to attend.
This is an issue that’s been on weighing heavily on President Obama’s mind. With national unemployment at 9.6 percent, and millions of Americans struggling, you would think the President would focus on turning around the economy rather than obscure campaign finance provisions. But barely a week goes by that President Obama does not publicly discuss Citizens United or the DISCLOSE Act. President Obama has devoted three weekly radio addresses to the subject (two in the past month), referenced the case in his State of the Union Address, held a special briefing in the Rose Garden, and has made it a frequent part of his stump speech at political fundraisers.
On September 20, 2010, at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser, President Obama gave us a glimpse of just how important the DISCLOSE Act is to his agenda:
“That’s the biggest problem that we have all across the country right now. We’ve got great candidates who are taking their case directly to the American people, but they are being drowned out by groups like Americans for Prosperity. Nobody knows who they are. Well, we know who they are — but nobody knows where the money is coming from, and they certainly don’t appear on those ads.
So I believe that if we are able to get our message out, if we have the same energy and focus and determination that we had in 2008 and 2006, then we will do fine. But that requires us to understand the stakes involved in this election. And I want everybody to understand, especially those who supported me, we are just in the first quarter here. We’ve gotten a lot of stuff done, but we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
The President’s loyal foot soldiers on Capitol Hill are hearing his message loud and clear – rather than focus on the real issues facing our nation, it’s more important to pass legislation to protect the jobs of incumbent politicians, including Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama. The only jobs that matter are their own.