free speech Archives - Shopfloor

White House May Try to Limit Speech Through Executive Order

By | First Amendment and Lobbying, General | One Comment

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.

DISCLOSE Act: Still Chilling Political Speech

By | Briefly Legal, First Amendment and Lobbying | 2 Comments

President Obama is scheduled to make a statement in the White House Rose Garden at 2:20 p.m. today about the DISCLOSE Act, pending legislation in the Senate that supporters call “campaign finance reform” but is really legislation meant to chill political speech during the 2010 campaign.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Thursday introduced a new, slightly modified of the DISCLOSE Act, the legislative response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which affirmed the First Amendment rights of groups — including trade associations and corporations — to spend money to express a political point of view. The new bill, S. 3628, offers marginal improvements, but the underlying attack against political speech remains unacceptable.

The Schumer changes — or change: requiring disclosure when unions transfer funds among affiliaites — allow supporters to pretend sans guffaw that the bill isn’t quite as one-sided for Big Labor as critics claim.

Sean Parnell of the Center for Competitive Politics outlines why the bill remains hostile to business while favoring labor. From “DISCLOSE Act still overwhelmingly favors unions“:

Then as now, the two main provisions of DISCLOSE that severely restrict the First Amendment rights of business corporations while ignoring unions with similar alleged conflicts are the ban on government contractors and on business corporations with even minimal foreign investment making expenditures.

The contractor ban is the most sweeping and far reaching, and would effectively prohibit political speech by most large corporations in the country. The fact is that most companies of any large size in the country probably has some government contract…[snip]

Meanwhile, unions who represent workers at these companies are free to run all the ads they want. While there have been a few feeble attempts to justify this sort of disparity, the fact is that the likelihood of undue influence, corruption, or its appearance is identical at government contractors as it is with the unions at government contractors.

The conventional wisdom is that Senate Majority Leader Reid is bringing the DISCLOSE Act to a vote this week as political calculation, knowing that he lacks the votes to break a filibuster but still believing the measure will be popular with voters. But the polling we’ve seen on the issue has been tendentious, designed to produce the desired results and sound-bites about “foreign oil companies drowning out the public.” Supporters of the bill are the usual suspects: either partisans or goo-goo activists who are offended by robust speech.

Opponents, on the other hand, span the political spectrum, from the American Civil Liberties Union — which urged a Senate no vote today — and the National Right to Life Committee, which sent Senators a letter expressing strong opposition last week. What unites these groups is a belief in the rights of citizens to express their political views.

We await the President’s remarks this afternoon, hoping that he, too, believes in that right.

House Could Vote on Bill to Limit Political Speech This Week

By | First Amendment and Lobbying, Regulations | No Comments

The House leadership hopes to push the pace of floor consideration this week in order to get a vote in on H.R. 5175, the bill to limit political speech in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Supporters want to have the new, certainly unconstitutional law, in place in time to chill political speech before the November elections.

The National Association of Manufacturers was one of 86 business and trade associations to send a letter to the Committee on House Administration last week registering strong objections to the legislation. Excerpt:

Schumer – Van Hollen would create a thicket of new regulatory requirements for American businesses. Its sponsors admit that the bill’s purpose is to deter corporations from exercising their First Amendment right to participate in the political process. The bill’s provisions are consistently framed to relieve unions from the stifling regulatory pressures they would place on corporations.

The legislation’s provisions include an outright ban on campaign-related activity by companies that have contracts with the federal government valued at $50,000 or more. This ban would cover tens of thousands of American businesses. Because they provided useful goods or services to the government, these small, medium, and larger-sized corporations would be forbidden from exercising their constitutional right to speak about candidates for federal office whose actions could have decisive effects on them, their shareholders, and workers. Corporations with a small amount of foreign ownership-as low as 20 percent-would be subject to similar, unconstitutional prohibitions on free speech.

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 bill’s other provisions are similarly intended to deter rather than merely disclose corporate speech.

The Committee on House Administration, given the bill instead of House Judiciary, pushed the bill onto the floor.