Forwarded to me by a friend. An intelligent answer from an intelligent public servant.
August 3, 2010
Dear Mr. McWilliams,
Thank you for contacting me regarding, H.R. 5175, the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act. I certainly appreciate hearing your views on this issue, and welcome the opportunity to respond.
Currently all groups funding political advertisements must disclose their identities in each ad and file spending reports with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Donors who contribute toward funding the ads must also be disclosed. Furthermore, foreign corporations are prohibited from making donations or supporting electioneering communications.
As you may know, H.R. 5175, was introduced by Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on April 29, 2010, and subsequently passed the House of Representatives on June 24, 2010. However, this bill has recently stalled in the Senate. Passage of this bill would impose absurd disclosure requirements that could take up more than half of an ad's time. It is a bill that was craftily designed to serve the interests of the current majority in Congress.
This bill is so objectionable to adherents of the First Amendment, that disparate groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have united in opposition.
The DISCLOSE Act is the result of a recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. FEC. The Court held that funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment. The Court struck down a provision of the Campaign Reform Act that prohibited both for-profit, not-for-profit entities, and unions from broadcasting commercials within 60 days of a general election and within 30 days of a primary election. The ruling became even more infamous, after President Obama gave an unprecedented rebuke to the Supreme Court during his State of the Union address.
The DISCLOSE Act is nothing more than a punitive measure against associations of persons who choose to exercise their right to free political speech; as guaranteed by the Constitution and affirmed in the Citizens United v. FEC case. The bill's new limits on spending and endless disclosure requirements target only the political speech of businesses and non-profits, with no effect on unions - including foreign-influenced labor unions, public-employee unions or government grant recipients.
Alarmingly, the DISCLOSE Act represents a significant departure from past campaign-finance legislation, which sought to treat unions and businesses comparably and was framed in a genuinely bi-partisan manner. The legislation's sponsors admit that the bill's purpose is to deter their potential enemies from participating in the political process. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said that the bill will make organizations "think twice" before attempting to influence election outcomes, and that this "deterrent effect should not be underestimated."
While the authors of the bill claim their provisions are necessary for voters to know who is paying for political advertising, the truth is they want to intimidate concerned groups into not expressing their views about incumbent lawmakers without fear of retaliation.
By attempting to silence voices in the political process, while enabling unions to retain their enormous influence, the DISCLOSE Act is patently unconstitutional and a political threat to the election process. Its partisan intent is clear. The bill's principal sponsor in the House, Congressman Van Hollen, is the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC); its other principal sponsor has previously held the equivalent position in the Senate. The sponsors have openly admitted their intent to enact the bill quickly to influence the elections this fall.
While I understand the concerns many may have with the Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, I believe the decision preserves the free speech protections of the First Amendment and ensures that these protections are applied evenly. I voted against the DISCLOSE measure when it was passed by the House this past June.
Again, thank you for contacting me. Please don't hesitate to contact me in the future regarding this, or any other issue. Also, to stay informed on what's happening in Washington, please feel free to sign up for my electronic newsletter, The Schock Report, at www.schock.house.gov.
Member of Congress