DISCLOSE: Powerful Interests Like the Lodi Chamber of Commerce

Latest reports have the House Rules Commitee meeting at 3 p.m. on H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act, meant to limit the speech of disfavored groups, with the intent of moving the bill to the House floor Thursday. As of 12:40 p.m., the meeting is not yet posted on the website: http://rules.house.gov

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), the ranking member of the House Administration Committee, issued a statement protesting the Democrats’ failure to release the final text of the DISCLOSE Act before tomorrow’s floor consideration, “Will Democrats Release the DISCLOSE Act Before We Vote on It?” Lungren observes: “Sadly, the best way to study the details of this bill’s provisions and to learn about the authors’ latest negotiations allocating the right to free speech is to read about them in the newspaper.”


Meanwhile, more than 300 trade associations and other business groups sent a letter to the U.S. House today expressing strong objections to H.R. 5175. One fundamental point about the bill’s unconstitutionality: Favored groups, such as labor unions, escape the bill’s regulation of the First Amendment.

From the letter:

Schumer–Van Hollen flouts all of these [constitutional] principles through a thicket of new regulatory requirements that are intended to stifle corporate speech but will have no meaningful impact on labor unions. Its provisions include a blanket prohibition on election-related speech by certain government contractors. Thousands of corporations regularly participate in contracts with the federal government; under Schumer – Van Hollen, many of them are categorically barred from making their political views known. That prohibition on core political speech is flatly unconstitutional and directly inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s holding in Citizens United that Congress can prohibit political speech only where it has evidence of quid pro quo corruption. Citizens United, 130 S. Ct. at 910. There is no such evidence.

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 Hill reports on the letter in, “More than 300 organizations send letter opposing Disclose Act,” quoting a spokesman for the chief House sponsor, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

His spokesman, Doug Thornell, recently told The Hill that efforts to oppose the bill are the “last acts of desperation from powerful special interest groups to keep the American people in the dark” when it comes to uncovering influential political donors.

Powerful special interest groups? Well, from the list of groups signing the letter:

Crop Protection Association of North Carolina
Gillette (Wyo.) Chamber of Commerce
Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors
National Marine Manufacturers Association
Ohio Cast Metals Association
Regional Black Chamber of Commerce SFV
The Lodi District Chamber of Commerce
The Remanufacturing Institute

Quite the cabal. Yes, these special interests are so shadowy, so powerful that they and their members must lose their First Amendment rights.

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