House Could Vote on Bill to Limit Political Speech This Week

The House leadership hopes to push the pace of floor consideration this week in order to get a vote in on H.R. 5175, the bill to limit political speech in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Supporters want to have the new, certainly unconstitutional law, in place in time to chill political speech before the November elections.

The National Association of Manufacturers was one of 86 business and trade associations to send a letter to the Committee on House Administration last week registering strong objections to the legislation. Excerpt:

Schumer – Van Hollen would create a thicket of new regulatory requirements for American businesses. Its sponsors admit that the bill’s purpose is to deter corporations from exercising their First Amendment right to participate in the political process. The bill’s provisions are consistently framed to relieve unions from the stifling regulatory pressures they would place on corporations.

The legislation’s provisions include an outright ban on campaign-related activity by companies that have contracts with the federal government valued at $50,000 or more. This ban would cover tens of thousands of American businesses. Because they provided useful goods or services to the government, these small, medium, and larger-sized corporations would be forbidden from exercising their constitutional right to speak about candidates for federal office whose actions could have decisive effects on them, their shareholders, and workers. Corporations with a small amount of foreign ownership-as low as 20 percent-would be subject to similar, unconstitutional prohibitions on free speech.

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.

The bill’s other provisions are similarly intended to deter rather than merely disclose corporate speech.

The Committee on House Administration, given the bill instead of House Judiciary, pushed the bill onto the floor.

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