Bill to Limit Political Speech Could Hit House Floor This Week

Politico confirms the hot, anti-First Amendment news of the day, “Breakthrough on campaign finance bill“:

House Democrats have reached an agreement with the National Rifle Association on campaign-finance legislation that would roll back the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, removing a major obstacle on the bill, according to House sources.

The deal would exempt the NRA and some other large organizations from strict campaign finance disclosures in the bill, which is being pushed by Democratic leaders in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. The NRA had objected to some of the disclosure requirements for the new campaign finance proposals, and that had kept moderate, pro-gun Democrats from backing the legislation.

Well, good for the NRA for protecting its members from efforts by Congressional incumbents to stifle political speech. Too bad they had to agree to an exemption being carved out for their organization. It’s strange and disheartening to see the First Amendment subject to negotiation, provisions written to protect one specific group.

The new agreement would exempt organizations that have over one million members, have been in existence for more than 10 years, have members in all 50 states, and raise 15 percent or less of their funds from corporations, from the disclosure requirements. The NRA, with four million members, would fall into the exempted category and will not oppose the DISCLOSE Act now, according to Democratic sources.

But then, the legislation is all about special treatment. As a letter from Americans for Tax Reform and more than 50 other grassroots conservative and free-market groups noted last week:

The bill also marks a stark departure from the traditional treatment of corporations and unions by applying punitive measures to associations in the corporate form, but not to labor unions. Historically, these entities have been treated interchangeably in campaign finance law. The attempt now to separate these associations amounts to nothing more than partisan maneuvering for political gain and sparks constitutional concerns under the Equal Protection clause.

The bill is H.R. 5175, and House leadership hopes to pass it by the July 4th recess, so the law’s chilling impact on speech can take effect before the November elections.

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