Could there be a last minute push in the Senate to pass the DISCLOSE Act, legislation that attempts to limit political speech in violation of the First Amendment? Well, the President did make the bill the topic of his weekly address Saturday, a odd choice when the salient economic and political issue is jobs.
As Ben Smith of Politico reported, “Grumble of the day: Campaign finance?!:
This week’s address attacked the Citizens United ruling, an question of campaign finance, Constitutional law, and, above all, process. The White House and some of its allies view the issue as a way of getting at the supposed Republican allegiance to big corporations. But the skepticism that this issue cuts through — at a time of overwhelming economic focus — is pretty widespread, and the decision to use any platform to talk about anything other than the economy is drawing quiet grumbles from Democrats.
“Any wonder there’s a growing impression that these guys are disconnected, not just from Democrats up for election, but from middle America?” a senior Democratic strategist said to me this morning.
Time is running out for action on the DISCLOSE Act before Congress recesses to campaign. But meanwhile, the House Administration Committee on Thursday is holding a hearing on a semi-related campaign finance bill, H.R. 6116, the Fair Elections Now Act sponsored by Rep. John Larson (D-CT). Now that we read Rep. Larson’s news release and the bill summary more closely, we conclude it wasn’t fair in Monday’s Dispatch from the Front to call it “yet another attempt to limit political speech akin to the DISCLOSE Act.” It’s more recondite than that.
Rep. Larson’s bill is a public financing of campaigns bill, creating a Fair Elections Fund with 400 percent matches for small dollar contributions. It’s more obscure in its attempts to control speech, at least at the start, using dollars to structure and regulate campaign spending and thus the political debate.
Although there is this obvious attempt to determine expression:
`SEC. 522. DEBATE REQUIREMENT.
`A candidate who is certified as a participating candidate with respect to an election shall, during the election cycle for the office involved, participate in at least–
- `(1) 1 public debate before the primary election with other participating candidates and other willing candidates from the same party and seeking the same nomination as such candidate; and
`(2) 2 public debates before the general election with other participating candidates and other willing candidates seeking the same office as such candidate.
Like so much other legislation, the bill also seeks funding from competitive auctions for recovered analog spectrum. Ten percent of the proceeds would provide the start-up
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