DISCLOSE: A Tougher Time in the Senate for Bill to Limit Speech

It appears unlikely that H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act, can be pushed through the Senate as quickly as it was shoved through the U.S. House. It’s not devotion to the First Amendment but rather practical scheduling matters and Senate rules that are slowing the bill’s consideration. We’ll take it …

National Journal
, Rules of the Game column, “Any Hope For DISCLOSE Act?

The bill, which sets out to shed light on corporate and interest group campaign spending, faces an uphill battle in the Senate. A constitutional challenge would be inevitable. And even if the legislation is enacted and upheld, it will do little to fundamentally shift the balance away from private money in American elections.

Even the political advantage Democrats may have hoped to gain by championing reforms is blunted by the perception that the DISCLOSE Act includes special carve-outs for the National Rifle Association and other influential groups.

Was it “championing reform” that was supposed to provide the political advantage? We thought it was the shutting up of critics. True, the House debate last week revealed populist talking points to accompany the claims of reform — BP is bad, Big Oil is bad, insurers are bad, corporations are bad, etc. But it’s hard to see how attacking the First Amendment is a political winner; the legislation looks like an act of cynical incumbent protection in an anti-incumbent year.

The Hill
also speculated on the bill’s fate in the Senate in “Election clock ticks for campaign finance bill facing a crowded Senate agenda“:

Advocates of the Disclose Act have long pointed to July 4 as a deadline for enacting the law so that its provisions could be implemented and enforceable during the hotly-contested midterm congressional campaign. But with the Senate bogged down in fights over tax legislation, a Supreme Court nomination and energy proposals, that marker will almost surely pass without action on campaign finance.

“Every week we go past the July 4 recess is going to spill into the campaign season,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a backer of the Disclose Act.

Both pieces cited were written before the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), which further complicates schedules and attempts to break filibuster.

Maybe the anti-speech scheming was more Byzantine than we thought: Supporters of the DISCLOSE Act used an exemption to sucker the National Rifle Association into backing the bill, provoking a backlash from NRA members. At radio host and lawyer Hugh Hewitt writes in his Examiner column today, “NRA blew it big time on Disclose Act“:

So, another day, another jam-down — and another unforeseen eruption of populist blowback, this time not just against the Democrats but against the NRA as well. A significant portion of its membership is appalled by a bill that elevates the Second Amendment over the First.

The backpedaling has been furious as the Beltway Bigs among the gun folk have struggled to explain exactly what they were doing when the NRA did not take to the ramparts to defend free speech.

Perhaps the exemption was intended first to discourage NRA members, who will now be less likely to contribute and go door-to-door in the fall campaigns. Even if the DISCLOSE Act dies in the Senate, sponsors have already achieved a disheartened NRA membership. Success!

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