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The DISCLOSE Act and the Culture of Corruption

Yesterday Democrats in the Senate failed in their effort to invoke cloture (that is, end debate) on the DISCLOSE Act, perhaps the most Orwellian-named piece of legislation in recent memory. The bill would have subjected donors of grassroots organizations to public scrutiny and regulatory harassment whether their contribution was used for the broadcast of an ad advocating the election or defeat of a candidate or not. So, for example, if someone wrote a large contribution to an organization opposing higher taxes, even if other funds were used to broadcast an express advocacy communication, the donor would be reported to the Federal Election Commission. It is an attempt by the Democrats in the Senate to regulate and restrict speech, silence critics of their extremist policies, and intimidate opponents of the administration and the Democratic majority. It tramples on the First Amendment and the freedom of association. Unless, that is, you are a labor union—groups funded with membership dues are largely exempt. What a surprise! As is the Sierra Club. And the National Rifle Association, which vowed to score a vote for the DISCLOSE Act as a vote against gun rights. Democrats knew that would defeat the bill so they carved out a safe harbor for the NRA. This is not equal protection under the law; it is Chicago-style thuggery. A broad, bipartisan coalition opposes the DISCLOSE Act. The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the bill because it violates the First Amendment. So does just about every conservative organization in the country. The Faith and Freedom Coalition joined a coalition letter sent to every member of the U.S. Senate opposing the bill. We will also score the vote on millions of Congressional Scorecards being distributed after Congress recesses so citizens know how their member of Congress voted, who voted to gut the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, and who stood up for freedom of speech. This bill is a dagger aimed at the heart of our most basic and cherished rights as Americans. In some ways it is a more important issue than any single legislative vote, because if grassroots organizations fighting for faith and freedom can be silenced, our freedoms are not secure. If you think this is hyperbole, I recommend you go back and read the oral arguments in Citizens United v. FEC, which sparked this battle in the first place. In those oral arguments, the Solicitor General’s office (headed by Elena Kagan) argued that the federal government could outlaw books published in proximity to an election if they appeared to favor a candidate and were paid for with corporate funds. This attempted power grab speaks to a broader culture of corruption. Yes, the Republicans lost their way in the latter years of their majority, but the Democrats have one-upped them. The DISCLOSE Act was an attempt to rig an election to favor one party over the other, silencing some philosophical advocacy organizations while exempting others. Harry Reid hijacked the bill, bypassed the committee process, drafted the Senate bill in a smoke-filled room, and held no hearings. This is a corruption of the legislative process. The fact that the leading sponsors were the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Chuck Schumer (until recently chair of the Democratic Senate campaign committee) tells one all that is needed about the motives behind the legislation. This is not campaign finance reform. It is the subversion of government to advance political or personal gain. It has been a pattern. This is the same gang that gave us Charlie Rangel, the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase and the White House’s attempt to bribe candidates out of primaries with the offer of government jobs. Fortunately, America is not Venezuela. As a result of yesterday’s vote, our rights to speak, organize and inform voters how members of Congress have voted and where they stand on the issues are safe…but only for now. However, the bill is not dead. Senator Joe Lieberman was not present, and he supports the bill. Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer have vowed to bring it back again and again until they pass it. We must remain vigilant and defeat it. When Ben Franklin was asked after the Constitutional convention what kind of government the framers had designed for the American people, he replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Let’s keep it, and not let this Congress and Barack Obama take it away.

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