The National Association of Manufacturers today sent a “Key Vote” letter to U.S. House members expressing the association’s opposition to H.R. 5175, the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act. The letter, available here, is a forceful one. Excerpt:
Put simply, this legislation threatens First Amendment freedoms and is a direct assault on the U.S. Constitution. Its purpose is to hinder groups, including associations such as the NAM, which give voice to their members’ views and priorities. The Supreme Court repeatedly has recognized that voluntary associations are key participants in the public debate, and that government’s attempts to curb participation in associations in order to stifle their voice in the public debate violate the First Amendment. There need be no further discussion on whether First Amendment freedoms should apply to some and not to others.
As drafted, H.R. 5175 would curb the First Amendment rights of many corporations that regularly participate in contracts with the federal government or have limited foreign ownership or control. We believe the bill’s disclosure provisions could easily be used to create “political enemies” lists or to promote “boycotts” – all aimed at chilling companies’ legitimate advocacy activities. It is unconscionable that these same First Amendment restrictions do not apply equally to unions representing government workers or unions with foreign members or directors.
The recent “deal” that was announced is even more troubling. This special deal is a virtual earmark that would exempt specially chosen interest organizations and exclude others. It was negotiated without the transparency the bill purports to champion and is the epitome of what Americans believe is wrong with politics today.
Our nation benefits when America’s job creators exercise their First Amendment rights and speak out about public policies that impact economic growth and U.S. job creation, and about political candidates’ views on those and other important subjects. The DISCLOSE Act would take away those rights by imposing harmful restrictions on corporations, associations, government contractors, American firms with very limited foreign ownership and U.S. subsidiaries.
“Key Vote” letters are approved by the NAM’s Key Vote Advisory Committee made up of representatives of member companies of all sizes. The letters let members of Congress know their votes on the legislation in question may be included when the NAM ranks members on their manufacturing records.
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