Budget / Labor / Transparency

Commentary: DISCLOSE Act an Affront to Constitution and National Character

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As the DISCLOSE Act nears its inevitable demise, the backers of this insidious bill are revealing their hands, accusing Republicans of the usual fear-mongering, politics of ‘no,’ etc. However, anyone with a grasp of Constitutional rights, or the slightest bit of insight into politics, can discern that it is a crude piece of partisan vote-hawking at the expense of our Constitutionally delineated liberties. How else can one explain the alignment of conservatives with the ACLU to defeat this disgraceful measure?

The DISCLOSE Act purports to strengthen campaign finance laws, as a direct response to the Citizens United vs. FEC decision, by advocating transparency in corporate spending and preventing foreign lobbying in American politics. While the original intent of the Act may have had some legitimacy, it has since been hijacked. The New York Times recounts here President Obama’s grossly misleading rhetoric on the bill. For instance, the President complains that Republican opposition is “nothing less than a vote to allow corporate and special-interest takeovers of our elections.”

In an excellent op-ed in the Washington Examiner, Bradley A. Smith exposes this sophistry from President Obama. The DISCLOSE Act, as it stands, puts prohibitions on political activity by private companies, preventing them from even mentioning a candidate in an election year. It even imposes a blanket ban on any political activity by government contractors. Likewise, the Citizens United decision does not enable foreign financial influence, despite the spin emanating from the President’s circle. As Smith aptly puts it, “The decision does allow U.S. companies with international shareholders to spend money on politics. The First Amendment rights of American shareholders should not be stripped away because of a minimal, non-controlling amount of foreign investors.”

In contrast, the Democratic architects of DISCLOSE completely exempt their allies the labor unions, as well as dozens of special interest groups hand-picked in closed-door meetings, from any such prohibitions. This is a shameless attempt to stifle political competition while bolstering their power base (unions) and currying votes from selective special interest groups in preparation for mid-term elections. The hypocrisy of the Democratic leadership pushing for this bill is staggering.

The unconstitutionality of the DISCLOSE Act is evident in two respects. It blatantly stifles the Constitutionally delegated freedom of speech, and it discriminates against private companies while affording unions and certain interest groups competitive and political advantages. Mr. Smith puts is perfectly when he says “the DISCLOSE Act … plays favorites with First Amendment rights and rewrites campaign finance law to advantage the majority party mere months before the midterm elections.” Fortunately, the DISCLOSE Act is widely expected to crash and burn in the Senate. The widespread opposition towards this sham is incontrovertible proof that the American people are tired of politicians rigging the game and calling it “reform.”

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