Tag: Disclose Act

Free Speech an Essential Element of Liberty

Free speech, guaranteed to us by the First Amendment, has lit the world and inspired the democracy we all cherish today. Efforts to limit speech based on the identity of the speaker in order to gain a political advantage must be pushed back on all fronts. Defending the right to speak freely without fear of reprisal is a fight that never ends.

Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stood tall in defense of this essential element of liberty as he addressed the American Enterprise Institute. In discussing the DISCLOSE Act, Leader McConnell correctly noted that the bill is fundamentally an end-run on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The DISCLOSE Act would require certain groups to disclose donor lists – opening the door to intimidation by those who disagree with them. He went on to say, “…if disclosure is forced upon some but not all, it’s not an act of good government, it’s a political weapon.”

At the NAM, we are committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of manufacturers. The First Amendment is for all, not favored groups, and our nation finds itself strongest when our right to voice our opinions is unimpeded. Manufacturers have a right to weigh in on the policies that will determine future economic growth and global competitiveness, and we applaud Leader McConnell for fighting this encroachment on our liberties.

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House Debates Amendment to Block Executive Order on Disclosure

Today, Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which would prohibit an executive branch agency from requiring federal contractors to disclose political contributions as a condition of participation. This amendment is a direct response to a draft Executive Order being considered by the Obama Administration which would link political contributions from companies with government contracts.

As proposed, the draft Executive Order brings politics to the forefront of the government contracting process, and creates the impression that any Administration could discriminate against businesses based on past political donations or engagement. The Cole Amendment would not allow an executive agency to require this kind of disclosure which would prevent companies from being unfairly discriminated against if they are bidding for a government contract. 

We are opposed to the current draft Executive Order and will continue to oppose any effort by the Administration to infringe on the rights of individuals which allows them to freely participate in the political process. 

The Cole Amendment was just debated on the House floor a short time ago and the vote could come this evening. We will post more information as it becomes available. 

Rosario Palmieri is vice president of infrastructure, legal and regulatory policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

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President’s Draft Order Politicizes, Damages Federal Contracting

The National Association of Manufacturers joined 87 other business groups and trade associations in a letter to President Obama on Monday night, raises numerous objections to a draft executive order that would require disclosures of campaign contributions by select parties involved in federal contracting.

The draft order is an attack on the First Amendment, as the letter states, suffers from severe legal and policy defects that would, if signed, immediately damage the federal contracting process.

From the letter:

The executive order would make every company that tries to contract with the federal government disclose spending that is confidential and used to fund core, First Amendment-protected political speech. Also troubling is the executive order’s reach beyond companies to their individual officers and directors, who would be forced by the executive order to disclose personal political spending undertaken with their own assets. This aspect of the order will both impair individuals’ First Amendment freedoms and interfere with the relationships between companies and their employees.

The political spending covered by the draft executive order is protected by the First Amendment and may not be interfered with absent an important governmental interest. It is quite clear, however, that despite perfunctory language to the contrary, the draft executive order is not motivated by a desire to improve the federal procurement system or any other potentially legitimate governmental interest. Indeed, the federal procurement system already has several built-in safeguards that work quite well to ensure that contract awards are based on the merits of the bid proposal.

Rather than strengthening these existing safeguards, the draft executive order would politicize the procurement process. The proposed order will either encourage covered speakers to refrain from exercising their constitutional speech rights so as to avoid jeopardizing their competitiveness for federal contracts, or it will encourage speakers to alter their political messages in ways perceived to increase their chances of being awarded federal contracts. Either effect is a problem under the First Amendment.

Thanks to the U.S. Chamber’s blog, the Chamber Post, for highlighting the letter.

And here’s a good summary of the issues from Heritage’s Hans von Spakosvky in The Examiner, “DISCLOSE executive order would politicize federal contracting.” Hans is a former member of the Federal Election Commission.

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Attacking Speech, an Executive Order on Government Contracting

President Obama could this week issue an executive order to force business  to disclose campaign contributions to qualify for government contractors, an attack on the First Amendment that would politicize federal contracting and inevitably lead to corrupting “pay for play” arrangements. This isn’t transparency, it’s brute politics.

The National Association of Manufacturers last week released a statement from NAM President Jay Timmons on the proposal, “Manufacturers: Presidential Executive Order Will Strip First Amendment Rights.” Timmons said:

President Obama’s plan to inject politics into the federal contracting process through an executive order is bad policy. Further, the matter already has been rejected by Congress.

While the NAM does not engage in political activity or have a political action committee, we are committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of manufacturing companies who participate in the government contracting process. The draft order would give this or any future Administration unchecked authority to discriminate against certain companies based on their past donations or engagement. This move is a sweeping effort to control personal political involvement through coercion.

Congress already rejected the DISCLOSE Act last year, legislation meant to squelch speech by groups disfavored by the Administration. That the President has plans to circumvent the legislative branch of government — circumvent the First Amendment — to restrict speech by a select, disfavored group of Americans is offensive.

Coverage, commentary ….

Kim Strassel, Wall Street Journal, “Obama’s ‘Gangster’ Politics“: (continue reading…)

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White House May Try to Limit Speech Through Executive Order

Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Elections Commission and now a Heritage scholar, breaks the news that the White House is considering ways to impose provisions of the anti-speech DISCLOSE Act through executive order.

From “LEAKED: Obama Executive Order Intends to Implement Portions of DISCLOSE Act

An impeccable source has provided me with a copy of a draft Executive Order that the White House is apparently circulating for comments from several government agencies. Titled “Disclosure of Political Spending By Government Contractors,” it appears to be an attempt by the Obama administration to implement — by executive fiat — portions of the DISCLOSE Act.

This was the bill introduced last year by Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC. The bill had onerous requirements that were duplicative of existing law and burdensome to political speech. It never passed Congress because of principled opposition to its unfair, one-side requirements that benefited labor unions at the expense of corporations. Democratic commissioners at the Federal Election Commission then tried to implement portions of the bill in new regulations. Fortunately, those regulations were not adopted because of the united opposition of the Republican commissioners.

As my source says:

It really is amazing — they lost in the Supreme Court, they lost in Congress, they lost at the FEC, so now the president is just going to do it by edict.

Amazing, but typical. The EPA is attempting to impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions despite clear opposition from Congress, the NLRB is busy enacting all sorts of pro-union provisions that could never pass congressional muster, and the President just issued a signing statement on White House “czars” proclaiming his intention of ignoring congressional appropriations. (Hugh Hewitt examines the trend in his latest column, “Liberals’ impatience with democracy, rule of law is growing.”)

The DISCLOSE Act was an ugly attempt to limit political speech based on who was expressing that speech. (Earlier Shopfloor posts.) The legislation failed in Congress last year. For the sake of the First Amendment, it should stay dead.

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Demonizing vs. Democracy: Chamber Wins the Argument

The White House and DNC attacks against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for daring to criticize the Administration over policy matters have failed miserably. With no evidence at all — just the bugaboo of “foreign money” – they accused the Chamber of wrongdoing, implying criminal violations and then demanding the Chamber prove itself innocent.

Failing to restrict political speech through passage of the unconstitutional DISCLOSE Act, the partisans turned from legislation to intimidation. That decision harmed public discourse and showed the Obama Administration willing to use the Office of the Presidency for personalized, demagogic attacks.

The Chamber has ably defended itself, and all but the most partisan of media outlets have found the political charges to be overheated, at best. The New York Times cut the White House’s ground of under it in the Oct. 8 report, “Topic of Foreign Money in U.S. Races Hits Hustings“:

The issue of the chamber’s funding first gained notice this week when ThinkProgress, a blog affiliated with the Center for American Progress, an influential liberal advocacy group, posted a lengthy piece with the headline “Exclusive: Foreign-Funded ‘U.S.’ Chamber of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads.”

The piece detailed the chamber’s overseas memberships, but it provided no evidence that the money generated overseas had been used in United States campaigns. Still, liberal groups like MoveOn.org pounced on the allegations, resulting in protests at the chamber’s offices, a demand for a federal investigation by Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, and ultimately the remarks by Mr. Obama himself.

White House officials acknowledged Friday that they had no specific evidence to indicate that the chamber had used money from foreign entities to finance political attack ads.

Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” in a response to White House official David Axelrod’s accusations: “I guess I would put it this way. If– if– if the only charge, three weeks into the election that the Democrats can make is that there’s somehow this may or may not be foreign money coming into the campaign, is that the best you can do?” (continue reading…)

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DISCLOSE Act Fails to Achieve Cloture, 59-39

The roll call vote is here.

Today’s debate, or what passed for debate, was short. Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) made a statement noting that the bill had never had a hearing or been considered for amendment.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell again pointed out the disconnect between supporters’ political priorities and those of the public.

Now, our friends on the other side would have the public believe that this bill is about transparency. It’s not.

Here’s a bill that was drafted behind closed doors without hearings, without testimony, and without any markups. A bill that picks and chooses who gets the right to engage in the political process and who doesn’t. A bill that seeks, in other words, to achieve an un-level playing field. A bill that’s back on the floor for no other reason than the fact that our friends on the other side have declared this week “politics-only” week in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), the sponsor, concluded with an offer to make it a more acceptable bill by delaying the effective date until after the election.
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DISCLOSE: Don’t Limit Advocacy, Just Be a Better Advocate!

The Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on a motion to proceed to S. 3628, the DISCLOSE Act, at 2:15 p.m. (Procedural details.) You’ll remember that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted no the last time the Senate debated cloture on the bill, which allows him to make a motion to reconsider it.

Jacob Sullum at Reason has a good column on the politics of the issue, “Ad Rage,” challenging the latest line of partisan argument that corporate campaign spending has already overwhelmed the public debate this election season. Sullum concludes by referring to President Obama’s last weekly address, in which the President choose to condemn campaign advertising rather than issues the public considers more pressing, that is, the economy and jobs.

Toward the end of his speech on Saturday, Obama accidentally told the truth. “You can make sure that the tens of millions of dollars spent on misleading ads do not drown out your voice,” he said. ”Because no matter how many ads they run—no matter how many elections they try to buy—the power to determine the fate of this country doesn’t lie in their hands. It lies in yours.”

Exactly right, Mr. President. No matter how shadowy or flush with corporate dollars an interest group is, the only thing Citizens United allowed it to do is speak. Advocacy has no impact unless it persuades people. So why not talk about the issues instead of impugning the motives of people who take a different position on them than you do?

In July, the National Association of Manufacturers sent a “Key Vote” letter to the Senate opposing S. 3628, the DISCLOSE Act, and related procedural votes.
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Misrepresenting the DISCLOSE Act, Yet Again

Several Senators — we’ve heard Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) — have taken to the Senate floor today in anticipation of tomorrow’s vote on the DISCLOSE Act.  Sen. Whitehouse is being especially extreme in his attacks, calling the Supreme Court a “radical group,” making accusations about “corruption” and money laundering, and now claiming that the court has “opened the floodgates to foreign corporations” to “drown out American voters” and buy elections.

Not true.

Sean Parnell at the Center for Competitive Politics has been watching the Senate speeches, too, and given his detailed knowledge of the legislation and the politics involved, we’ll allow him to correct the falsehoods.

Listening to them speak, it’s become even more clear than ever that not only are the Senate advocates of the DISCLOSE Act wrong (a subjective opinion, of course, although one we can amply defend) but they are almost completely ignorant of what this legislation would do, what current law on the subject is, and what the court ruled in Citizens United.

All of the things being said that are simply factually incorrect, at least all that I heard, have been covered by us here at CCP repeatedly in the past. The plainly false statements include:

This is just a brief sampling of the transparently inaccurate statements made by Democratic Senators on the floor so far today regarding the DISCLOSE Act, and doesn’t even begin to address things like the claim that a bill that prohibits more than half the largest companies in the country from speaking without limiting a single union somehow represents a fair and even-handed treatment of the business and labor communities.

What’s so astonishing is that the Senate supporters of the bill believe (or claim to believe) that the American public wants Congress to act on this legislation, supposed campaign finance reform that is really an attack on the First Amendment.

We believe the public would prefer to see the Senate consider measures to strengthen the economy, keep tax rates under control, and improve U.S. competitiveness.

Note — 4:30 p.m. corrected the state designation for Sen. Whitehouse.

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No Time for Vote on Tax Rates, but to Restrict Political Speech, Sure!

UPDATE (11:30 a.m.): The National Association of Manufacturers this morning against sent our “Key Vote” letter opposing
S. 3628, the DISCLOSE Act, to the U.S. Senate. The letter was initially distributed in July with the first Senate vote on the bill. …

The Hill, “Dems plan last-ditch vote on Disclose Act“:

Democrats plan to rally their troops for the final stretch of the campaign season by bringing up a campaign-finance transparency bill.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) on Tuesday announced plans for a last-ditch vote on the measure, dubbed the Disclose Act. A vote on the bill is expected Thursday.

Politico, Ben Smith writing on Tuesday, “DISCLOSE vote will wait for high-dollar fundraiser

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just scheduled a vote on the DISCLOSE Act, which would force donors to publish their involvement in political ad campaigns, for Thursday.

Why not tomorrow [Wednesday], you might ask? Because there are no votes in the Senate scheduled for tomorrow. And that may be, in part, because there’s something else going on tomorrow: A big New York fundraiser for the Senate Democrats.

“I would be honored if you would join me for a very special reception with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, September 22, 2010 in New York. We have a limited numbers of tickets available to our general reception. If you would like to join us, please contact …[redacted]@dscc.org.”

Surprised the vote wasn’t scheduled as part of the Defense authorization debate.
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