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  • Impending Government Censorship

    Last week, eight former commissioners from the Federal Election Commission (including me) tried to warn a committee in the House of Representatives that a bill it was about to vote on was not only unnecessary, but so burdensome to the right of political speech and advocacy that it violates the First Amendment.

    We summarized our criticisms of the “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Election Act,” or DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175), in this commentary in the Wall Street Journal.  As we pointed out, the DISLOSE Act not only abandons the longstanding policy in federal campaign finance law of treating unions and businesses equally, it attempts to do indirectly (through onerous and complex regulations) what the Supreme Court told Congress in the Citizens United decision that it cannot do directly – restrict the political speech of corporations and unions, including nonprofit associations.

    A series of amendments were offered to the bill in the House Administration Committee by Republican members that would have applied some of the requirements of the bill equally to labor unions.  They were all defeated.  For example, the bill prohibits government contractors who receive government contracts above a certain amount from spending any funds on political advocacy. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) offered an amendment that would have extended that prohibition to unions in representational contracts with the government.  If one believes that government contractors have some kind of “conflict of interest” because they are receiving government funds, then the same conflict of interest would apply to unions who represent government workers who are also receiving government funds.  But that amendment was defeated in a vote on party lines, as was an amendment by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) that would have extended the same ban to any other recipient of government grants.

    Similarly, the bill prohibits companies with a certain percentage of foreign shareholders or officers from engaging in independent political advocacy.  Yet an amendment offered by Rep. Lungren that would have applied that same ban to unions that receive dues from foreign nationals was again rejected.  Of course, this should surprise no one since, for example, The Hill newspaper is reporting that just one union alone, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, plans to spend in excess of $50 million during the 2010 campaign, part of which will fund “a massive incumbent protection program.”  Is it any surprise that the incumbent sponsors of this bill want to exempt unions from many of its provisions?  That is why former FEC Chairman Brad Smith calls it the “Democratic Incumbents Seeking to contain Losses by Outlawing Speech in Elections” Act.

    The eight commissioners have almost 75 years of experience between them and served on the FEC from its inception in 1975 through 2008.  We know how difficult a balancing act it is to enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act, which governs all federal campaigns, while protecting the very basic First Amendment rights to engage in political speech, political advocacy, and to run for office in order to participate in the governance of this nation.  The DISCLOSE Act seems intended to deter and intimidate the political speech of those whom the sponsors and supporters of the bill do not want to hear from in the political arena, which are the hundreds of thousands of businesses and voluntary associations throughout America who are being hurt by the foolish economic and regulatory decisions being made in Congress.  In fact, at the hearing, Rep.Michael Capuano (D-MA) essentially admits that he wishes it were possible to ban outside groups from participating in elections and he hopes the bill chills their speech, a very disturbing and scary admission by a government official that he sees nothing wrong with government censorship.  American businesses and private associations have just as much right as anyone else to make their views known on everything from health care to cap and trade regulation.

    The full House of Representatives may vote on this bill as early as this Friday.  If it passes Congress and is signed into law by President Obama, there is no question that it will face serous court challenges as a violation of the First Amendment.  But it will also be another example of how campaign finance proposals, which are always portrayed as a way of supposedly “reforming” the election system, are all too often motivated by partisanship and supported by those who seem to lack a basic understanding of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the master blueprint of American democracy.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    17 Responses to Impending Government Censorship

    1. James E. McMullen, I says:

      I reckon I'll just have to go the Poor Richard route. This is draconian and un-American as well as un-Constitutional.

    2. Brad, Detroit, MI says:

      Does anyone know if the public-sector unions actually vote on whether their dues should be used to support political campaigns ?

      With all of the stories of unfunded or underfunded pension plans, I suspect that the average union-due paying member would rather their money go to their future financial comfort than siphoned off to pay for political advocacy. The SEIU bragged that they spent over $130 million to get Obama elected. Imagine if they would have actually saved and invested that money to pay for their member's retirement accounts ?

      Can we get a law on the books that prevents public sector unions from funding political campaigns with general dues ? I don't care if they have voluntary donation drives to raise funds, but to "steal" it from the general fund is dubious at best, thievery at worst. It is just as stupid as our Federal Government taking the SS, Medicare (FICA) income and using it in the general budget.

    3. Rich Rogers Phoenix says:

      Is anybody shocked about what's happening to freedom of speech? Come on ! Lawmakers have been chipping away at our constitutional rights for decades. What a perfect time for the Obama administration to begin working at the speed of light to put an end to freedom as we knew it. The question is, will the damage be too great to overcome by November ?

    4. JAK Virginia says:

      The arrogance of proponents of the “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Election Act,” or DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175) is a shameful and unconstitutional legislative ploy by Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Van Hollen (D-MD) to subvert the right of free speech as expressly stated in the US Constitution.

      Unfortunately, with the rabid majority of democrats in the House and Senate there is little that can do about it, until the November elections, when citizens disgusted with this chicanery can vote these fellows out of office and restore the US Constitution as the law of the land.

      In the meantime be civil and try to enlighten them with your calls and correspondence bringing them understanding so they can see the errors of their ways, and make amends before they lose their cushy jobs.

    5. Glenn Y. says:

      The Unions will win, and businesses loose. It's seems surreal to me – that so

      many in our government fail to understand that the bulk of all jobs come

      from independent businesses and therefore, the bulk of all revenue to the

      government (revenue – something they seem to be getting shorter on

      daily) comes from business, and since unions are "business killers" in

      general, by supporting the unions, and blocking off the businesses, – they

      (the government) are cutting their own proverbial throat (financially

      speaking) and ours in the process!

    6. Pingback: So Much For Citizens United « Faulk For Congress

    7. Pingback: Daily Buzz 05.27.10 | Daily Buzz Factor

    8. mary ann, barnegat n says:

      Yes, a rabid pack of wolves, that is what they are. Wake up all your friends that are still apathetic before it is too late

    9. New York Buckeye says:

      Why is Congress trying to make a law abridging freedom of speech and the press? Is it because they don't like the Constitution? Is it because they refuse to accept limits on their legislative power?

      I can think of nothing more anti-American than an attempt to limit, stifle, or abridge any effort to speak out against a political candidate during a campaign.

    10. Jay Roland, Monterey says:

      I hope we are successful in having HR5175 thrown out. Good luck to us all.

    11. Ross Wolf, Nevada says:

      Could Obama Be America’s First Defacto President?

      Innocent Americans increasingly are sent to prison based on false evidence manufactured by police forensic crime labs. Now President Obama wants the power to incarcerate U.S. Citizens not on evidence, but for what they might do.

      Compare: Two days after the 1933 burning of Germany’s Parliament Building, blamed on communists, Hitler responded with a powerful speech before Parliament. Hitler asked Parliament to suspend sections of the Reich Constitution that protected Citizens' Rights and Civil Liberties. Hitler said the suspension was necessary so government could protect the homeland from being destroyed by communists. Hitler promised Parliament the Constitution would later be restored. After Parliament passed Hitler’s Discriminatory Decrees and Hitler signed it February 28, 1933, Hitler immediately used the news laws to abolished Parliament. See Hitler’s 1933 Discriminatory Laws below:

      Obama gave a speech in May 2010, that proposed incarcerating in indefinite prolonged detention without evidence, any person government deemed a “combatant” or likely to engage in a violent act in the future; that would include U.S. Citizens “without evidence of wrongdoing.” With that amount power Obama like Hitler could arrest members of Congress, drag U.S. Citizens off the street and from their homes to be imprisoned indefinitely based only on Government’s claim they are a “combatant” or likely to engage in a violent act in the future.

      If Congress approves Obama’s categories of people likely to engage in violent acts, overnight millions of lawful U.S. activists could be subject to arrest, Indefinite Prolonged Detention. When you examine Obama’s speech, it appears Obama wants retroactive power to incarcerate anyone government claims (prior) supported violent acts on the premise that person is likely to support violent acts in the future: U.S. activists would be extremely vulnerable because no activist can control what another activist or group might do illegally they network with domestically or overseas. Government would only have to allege a person; group or organization might commit a violent act in the future to order Preventative Detention of lawful participants with no evidence whatsoever. Americans would be afraid to speak out.

      It is foreseeable any “individual” who writes on the Internet or verbally express an opinion against or entity of U.S. Government or its coalition partners could be deemed by authorities a “Combatant” or likely to engage in or cause violent acts: government too easily could claim an author’s writings inspired people in the past and will in the future to commit or support violent acts. It is problematic that indefinitely detained U.S. Citizens not involved in terrorism or hostile activities, not given Miranda Warnings or allowed legal counsel; interrogated, will be prosecuted for ordinary crimes because of their alleged admissions while held in indefinite “Prolonged Detention. Obama wants the power to override the U.S. Constitution. Obama wants the power to detain indefinitely any American without probable cause or evidence, based on conjecture someone might do something violent in the future.

      Obama similar to Hitler is centralizing power in the federal Government by getting passed legislation the U.S. government could potentially use to intimidate and threaten corporations among others. Hitler got passed similar laws shortly before the burning of the German Parliament building blamed on the communists. Immediately after the fire, Hitler used his new laws to coerce corporations and influential Citizens to support passage of fascist legislation that suspended provisions of the German Constitution that protected Citizens’ freedoms and civil liberties. Obama is now approaching a position where he can use similar new laws, including the Patriot Act and 200 asset forfeiture laws to seize any corporation or individual’s assets; and force U.S. corporations and other institutions like Hitler did to support legislation that threatens or curtails rights of Americans.

      More recently Obama has moved forward to crush Free Speech, silence his critics by pushing passage of HR 5175: this abomination will choke the 1st Amendment, denying the right of free speech to ordinary Americans. Under Title II: groups like Gun Owners of America and other groups including bloggers that only mention “public officials” within 60 days of an election, could be required to file onerous disclosures–and potentially have to disclose their membership lists—despite the Supreme Court ruling in NAACP v. Alabama that held membership lists like those of GOA's) are off limits to government control. Is Obama’s support of HR 5175 similar to what Hitler did to shut up his critics? In the run to Parliament passing his police state laws including the 1933 Discriminatory Decrees that abolished Citizen’s Free Speech, Hitler employed thugs to beat up reporters, arrest anyone who had courage to criticize the Fuhrer or his Nazi government or expose introduced legislation. Is Obama by supporting HR 5175 to shut up his critics, trying to American to the same place?

      Alarmingly the Obama Government recently employed a vendor to search Internet social networking sites to collect about information about Americans that could potentially be used by this government to injure Americans, for example, if you apply for a federal job, your name might be crossed referenced by the Obama Government with comments you made at Websites against Obama; or if you make application at a bank for a loan the Government has control since the financial crisis, could your Internet comment(s) prevent you getting that loan? Obama's monitoring of the Internet sites can too easily be used by Government to intimidate Citizens from speaking out. Obama Top CZAR Cass Sunstein prepared in a 2008 paper that proposed spying on Americans, infiltrating groups and organizations to obstruct Free Speech, disrupt the exchange of ideas and disseminate false information to neutralize Americans that might question government.

      See: http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=121884

      See Hitler’s 1933 Nazi Laws below:

      DECREE OF THE REICH PRESIDENT FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE PEOPLE AND STATE

      Note: Based on translations by State Department, National Socialism, 1942 PP. 215-17, and Pollak, J.K., and Heneman, H.J., The Hitler Decrees, (1934), pp. 10-11.7

      In virtue of Section 48 (2) of the German Constitution, the following is decreed as a defensive measure against Communist acts of Violence, endangering the state:

      Section 1

      Sections 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. Thus, restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the right of assembly and the right of association, and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications, and warrants for house-searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

      Section 2

      If in a state the measures necessary for the restoration of public security and order are not taken, the Reich Government may temporarily take over the powers of the highest state authority.

      Section 4

      Whoever provokes, or appeals for or incites to the disobedience of the orders given out by the supreme state authorities or the authorities subject to then for the execution of this decree, or the orders given by the Reich Government according to Section 2, is punishable—insofar as the deed, is not covered by the decree with more severe punishment and with imprisonment of not less that one month, or with a fine from 150 up to 15,000 Reichsmarks.

      Whoever endangers human life by violating Section 1, is to be punished by sentence to a penitentiary, under mitigating circumstances with imprisonment of not less than six months and, when violation causes the death of a person, with death, under mitigating circumstances with a penitentiary sentence of not less that two years. In addition the sentence my include confiscation of property.

      Whoever provokes an inciter to or act contrary to public welfare is to be punished with a penitentiary sentence, under mitigating circumstances, with imprisonment of not less than three months.

      Section 5

      The crimes which under the Criminal Code are punishable with penitentiary for life are to be punished with death: i.e., in Sections 81 (high treason), 229 (poisoning), 306 (arson), 311 (explosion), 312 (floods), 315, paragraph 2 (damage to railroad properties, 324 (general poisoning).

      Insofar as a more severe punishment has not been previously provided for, the following are punishable with death or with life imprisonment or with imprisonment not to exceed 15 years:

      1. Anyone who undertakes to kill the Reich President or a member or a commissioner of the Reich Government or of a state government, or provokes to such a killing, or agrees to commit it, or accepts such an offer, or conspires with another for such a murder;

      2. Anyone who under Section 115 (2) of the Criminal Code (serious rioting) or of Section 125 (2) of the Criminal Code (serious disturbance of the peace) commits the act with arms or cooperates consciously and intentionally with an armed person;

      3. Anyone who commits a kidnapping under Section 239 of the Criminal with the intention of making use of the kidnapped person as a hostage in the political struggle.

      Section 6

      This decree enters in force on the day of its promulgation.

      Reich President

      Reich Chancellor

      Reich Minister of the Interior

      Reich Minister of Justice

    12. Ray A.,Paso Robles,C says:

      All of Congress should read what The Heritage Foundation and National Review Online has to say, they bring such great truth's and facts. What amazes me is people fall for all their lies and double talk! America needs to wake up.

    13. Pingback: The NRA Joins Democrats in Stabbing Free Speech in the Back

    14. Ross Wolf says:

      Disclose Act Will Choke First Amendment

      The Neomarxist behind the Obama/FTC intend to drown out the voice of America with Obama/Marxist propaganda, enforcing new regulations that will cripple bloggers and other alternative media from disseminating information, free speech that grass-roots among other organizations depend on to make informed decisions. Obama’s support of the DISCLOSE Act confirmed what many Americans already believed; that Obama and certain Democrats in Congress intend to strangle the flow of information. If Obama and his leftists associations get their way, our Children will be brainwashed by Obama’s one-sided propaganda at school, through Obama controlled Radio, TV and Obama media policies that restrict the free flow of information. Historically when communists attempted or took over a country, one of their first steps was to control the media and all forms of public communications to control Civilian populations. When Russia took over Hungary, it immediately took control of the Radio stations to thwart Citizen resistance and to psychologically control the People. Considering the Obama administration’s obsession with controlling all media, one might ask, are some of the same persons inside and outside U.S. Government working with the Obama administration to push the Disclose Act and other censorship regulations, involved in causes that promulgate overthrow of the United States? While some in the Obama Government say they support dismantling capitalism, brick by brick, does their endgame call for destruction of the United States? If it does, what should Americans do to stop it? Does the Obama administration’s proposed censorship of free speech e.g., the Disclose Act threaten National Security? In other countries where members of political parties and ideological extremists attempted or succeeded in this kind of forced censorship, forbidding Citizens to receive information, they have been arrested for treason among other crimes. The Obama administration appears intended to curtail Americans’ right to know, restrict American’s right to communicate via the Internet and the Obama administration admits they want to pay writers in newspapers and other media to covertly propagandize their point of view. Is this not treason? Top CZAR Cass Sunstein prepared a 2008 paper that proposed spying on Americans, infiltrating groups and organizations to obstruct Free Speech, disrupt the exchange of ideas and disseminate false information to neutralize Americans that might question government.

      See: http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=121884

      The majority of Americans oppose military governments. But increasingly during the last six months, more Americans quietly state they would trust the U.S. Military running U.S. Government temporarily over extremists in Obam’s government; that they would support a quasi Civilian/military form of government temporarily provided their civil and constitutional rights were protected and importantly, all leftists extremists in U.S. Government were deposed. This recent change of attitude by Americans might be explained by the fact they can relate to their U.S. Military and find nothing in common with Obama and his extreme leftist associations and supporters. Increasingly Americans appear to fear the Obama government more than the idea of having the U.S. Military temporarily run U.S. Government. Additionally Obama’s refusal to secure America’s Mexican border might have contributed to Americans identifying with a quasi/U.S. military government over an Obama government that won’t protect Border States from foreign invaders. The number of Marxists in the U.S. is small, but having them control any part of our government is repugnant to most Americans that believe it not in the best interest of our economy, national defense and National Security. Considering the direction America is going economically, more Americans are afraid that if things collapse, Obama might use the U.S. Military against U.S. Citizens; that should things collapse a quasi Civilian/U.S. Military government not the Obama administration should run America. This is mentioned only to note there is a strong wind blowing across America, that is howling enough Obama.

    15. Ann V. Winthrop, MA says:

      I can only add that it does my heart good to see so many folks, finally waking up to the truth, regarding this administration.

      Why would we ever be willing to give away our freedom of speech. This is what makes us diffrent from other Countries, like the old Russia and German, during the war.

      It is my prayer that more true
      American’s open their eye’s before Obama gives our country, the country he states “is not a Christian Country” away to the folks that seem to be mis-leading him. He just might want to check his American history books and see who it was that God sent to America to estabilish this our country in the first place. I wonder has Obama ever read our History books.

      WHO ARE WE ANYWAY. ARENT’ WE THE GREAT USA and don’t we govern ourselves. Or are the all the Democrate’s that blind.

    16. emmie Lu says:

      The Disclose Act represents the arrogance of an administration enamored only with itself and its own power. Obama is a menace to our Rule of Law, and is aided and abetted by his leftist sycophants who merely nod in approval to all his demands. These are those who have sold their souls; transparency is not truth and clarity, but lies and distortion. Obama's agenda is visible to those who possess wisdom and intellect; the rest are content to believe the myriad falsehoods. The DC Swamp is being lowered into the eternal abyss of socialism. Is there an honest democrat to be found? I think not — they seem as extinct as cave men. Americans, hold the line and be watchful this November–especially at the polls. Obama and his Marxist implants do not play according to the rules; justice is a talking point, mere words read from a teleprompter. They are empty words, void of meaning. Just look at Kagan and you'll see what I mean

    17. emmie Lu, Washington says:

      The Disclose Act represents the arrogance of an administration enamored only with itself and its own power. Obama is a menace to our Rule of Law, and is aided and abetted by his leftist sycophants who merely nod in approval to all his demands. These are those who have sold their souls; transparency is not truth and clarity, but lies and distortion. Obama's agenda is visible to those who possess wisdom and intellect; the rest are content to believe the myriad falsehoods. The DC Swamp is being lowered into the eternal abyss of socialism. Is there an honest democrat to be found? I think not — they seem as extinct as cave men. Americans, hold the line and be watchful this November–especially at the polls. Obama and his Marxist implants do not play according to the rules; justice is a talking point, mere words read from a teleprompter. They are empty words, void of meaning. Just look at Kagan and you'll see what I mean.

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