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  • DISCLOSing Contempt for Liberty and the Constitution

    You’d think that members of Congress would have a keen knowledge of and appreciation for congressional history; you’d think they would know better than to repeat the mistakes made by their legislative body in the past. But if partisanship guides your actions and winning elections at all costs is your objective, then repeating unconstitutional behavior is apparently not beyond the pale.

    That is exactly what is about to happen: The House of Representatives is expected to vote in the next day or two on the DISCLOSE Act, a law purportedly intended to blunt the effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision. That case restored the First Amendment right of political speech by throwing out a federal ban on independent political advocacy by unions and corporations, including both for-profit and non-profit associations.

    The real effects of the DISCLOSE Act will be to deter political speech (including criticism of incumbents, such as its chief sponsors, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)) and political advocacy by corporations and associations that Democrats don’t want participating in the American political process. It includes both absolute bans on independent political advocacy and new, burdensome disclosure requirements. Schumer admitted when he introduced the bill that “the deterrent effect should not be underestimated.” During a House Administration Committee hearing, Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) made no bones about the fact that he hoped this Act “chills out all . . . I have no problem whatsoever keeping everybody out [of elections]. If I could keep all outside entities out, I would.”

    Of course, the “deterrent” and “chilling” effect is meant to hit corporations — including nonprofit associations like Citizens United, the conservative advocacy organization that brought the original lawsuit — but not unions, which are exempted from most of the provisions of the bill. No surprise there, since unions support Democrats almost exclusively, with huge amounts of money. And the majority party is moving this bill at a breakneck pace through Congress to have it in place for the November elections, because Democrats fear November will be their election Waterloo.

    The DISCLOSE Act would ban certain government contractors from engaging in any political speech, yet unions that represent government employees, and organizations like Planned Parenthood that receive large amounts of federal grants, would not be affected. American companies with American workers and American officers could be banned from speaking if a small minority of their shareholders are foreigners, yet unions with foreign officers and foreign members could spend as much money on political advocacy as they want. And many of the new disclosure provisions imposed by the act were made onerous and burdensome for the specific purpose of deterring political speech.

    If all of this sounds depressingly familiar, it should. The DISCLOSE Act is the modern-day version of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were passed by the Federalists in 1798 to quell political opposition from the Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson. These acts were one of the worst (and most noxious) violations of the FirstAmendment ever passed by Congress. Under their terms, Federalist judges jailed or fined 25 people, mostly Republicans newspaper editors, and many of their newspapers were forced to shut down.

    One of the men arrested was Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache. Another was Rep. Matthew Lyon, who was jailed while a Republican congressman from Vermont and won reelection behind bars. The first man arrested was Luther Baldwin, of New Jersey, who was convicted and fined $100 for wishing that a blast from the presidential saluting-cannon would hit Pres. John Adams in “his arse.” Under the DISCLOSE Act, if a corporate association met the qualifications for the government-contractor ban on independent expenditures and ran an ad saying the same thing about President Obama in 2012, it could also be fined and its corporate officers sent to jail

    As always, there are those willing to sacrifice liberty in order to gain a personal or political advantage for themselves. The National Rifle Association, which previously called the Citizens United decision a “defeat for arrogant elitists who wanted to carve out free speech as a privilege for themselves and deny it to the rest of us,” has apparently agreed to withdraw its opposition to the DISCLOSE Act in exchange for a narrowly drawn exemption. Instead of applying to all nonprofit advocacy groups, including the smaller, less powerful ones with limited budgets that will be particularly affected and burdened by these new regulations, the exemption will apply only to 501(c)(4) organizations with members in all 50 states, numbering more than one million overall, that have been in existence for ten years and receive 15 percent or less of their funds from corporations. The NRA, a well-funded, powerful organization, coincidentally fits within this exemption. So the NRA has received its 30 pieces of silver in return for forsaking the political speech rights of the rest of us.

    Public opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts was so great that it was major factor in the election of Thomas Jefferson as president in 1800. Although Adams neither vetoed nor protested these Acts, he was apparently embarrassed enough about their passage that he later denied any responsibility for them. Unfortunately, neither the members of Congress pushing the DISCLOSE Act nor the president seem at all embarrassed about this pending abrogation of basic FirstAmendment free-speech and associational rights. If the unconstitutional, partisan, and pernicious DISCLOSE Act is passed and signed into law by President Obama, it will be interesting to see if the American public has the same reaction to this noxious bill in 2010 and 2012 that the public had in 1800.

    Cross-posted at The Corner.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    17 Responses to DISCLOSing Contempt for Liberty and the Constitution

    1. West Texan says:

      As a life member of the NRA, I’m disturbed its officers would compromise on free speech so as to preserve the 2nd amendment. The very pillars of our constitutional government stand together as the Bill of Rights. It only takes one Right to be weakened to begin the collapse of the others. Chuck Schumer and Chris Van Hollen can take their DISCLOSE Act and … well … have a nice day.

    2. Bobbie Jo says:

      Wow! America! We, the people! Being led by the corrupt, thin skinned, little people, who have the audacity to call themselves leaders of America and had to cheat to become? …like little babies not brought up with good intentions.

      Actions speak louder then words, little ones. Bet your parents are proud of you?
      Step down those of you who can’t stand truth. The good people of America didn’t vote for deception and all the “isms” your conduct is implementing.

    3. Billie says:

      Wow! America! We, the people! Being led by the corrupt, thin skinned, little people, who have the audacity to call themselves leaders of America and had to cheat to become? …like little babies not brought up with good intentions.

      Actions speak louder then words, little ones. Bet your parents are proud of you?
      Step down those of you who can’t stand truth. The good people of America didn’t vote for deception and all the “isms” your conduct is implementing.

      If you can’t understand and conduct your elected duty to uphold the constitution, have some dignity and step down. We know who you are.

    4. Dennis, Minnesota says:

      The tyrannts answer to sinking polls is to "sink the polls",Force the opposition to gag, make allies with traitors to liberty (N.R.A.), and usurp the highest court in the land. And this is just 18 months into the "transformation". I thought I would never have to say or write something like this, but here goes. I don't expect to see free elections in 30 months. I don't expect a group of individuals like this to hand over a nation in a peaceful transfer of power, nor espeacially, in better shape than they inherited it. I think we freedom oriented individuals need to be prepared for conditions to become more dire.Much more dire.There is a certain sense of desperation in their actions. I expected to see leftist policy and law being written, I did not expect to see it delivered so quickly. I think this group expects Republicans to play golf around this heaping pile of Statism, as they traditionally have when swept in to put the fix in place. If the Tea Parties don't lean hard and consistant on the GOP, Americans may easily grow accustomed to American Decline. I hope not.

    5. Chris McGreer says:

      Is David Keene, NRA First VP speaking double talk in the following open letter on the NRA-ILA web site? Thanks for your inputs.

      “I can assure you that I would never countenance a “deal” of the sort you think the NRA made with Congress to further Democratic attempts to restrict political speech. I consider such restrictions to be not only repugnant, but blatantly unconstitutional, an opinion shared by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris Cox.”

      “The so-called “DISCLOSE ACT” is a horrible piece of legislation designed to do exactly what you suggest. It would require advocacy groups to run a regulatory gauntlet designed to make it very difficult for many of them to play the role for which they were formed and is both bad policy and flies in the face of recent Supreme Court decisions.”

      “Last week Democratic leadership in the House capitulated by agreeing to exempt the NRA from the act – not in return for NRA support, but to avoid a political war that might cost them even more seats this fall.”

      “I have to tell you that I never thought the Democrats would agree to this – not because they have much regard for constitutional rights – because I didn’t believe their left wing would allow it. The events since their capitulation convince me that their fear of NRA retaliation forced them to take steps that split their coalition and could easily doom the whole bill.”

    6. Michael, Atlanta, GA says:

      I'm sorry, but this is NOT an attack on free speech. Only individual people can have and express opinions. Corporate "rights" are governed by the Commercial Code. Corporations do not have Constitutional Rights as individuals do. If you honestly believe that Corporations have Constitutional "rights" to political speech, then you must also give companies the right to vote. I wonder who among you will advocate for THAT?

      We have needed legislation like this for a long time. Candidates on BOTH sides are bought and paid for by interest groups who often contribute money to opposing campaigns knowing that it doesn't matter who wins, because either candidate will be indebted to the PAC.

      That being said, this Bill is glutinously slanted in favor of Liberals and the groups who typical support them, such as ACORN, SEIU, Planned Parenthood, etc. It must be amended to remove the Liberal bias, and then passed as a fair and complete measure.

    7. Pat, Atlanta, GA says:

      The NRA has sold Americans out. The result of your action has caused me to cancel my membership in National Rifle Association. Unless I see the NRA renounce this vicious assault, I will NEVER be a member of your organization again and I am emailing a copy of this letter to all elected officials in my district, my friends and my relatives in hope the NRA regains its sense of fair play, responsibility and support the American way of life.

      Here is another example of the Obama Administration paying off there opposition. When is this going to stop? Remember, vote, vote and vote out all the TYRANNY from the any potential or currently elected official. It is important that “we the people” take our country back from the slugs that slimed there way into the governmental process. It doesn’t matter if SHE is from California, HE is from Nevada, or Mr. Change (you can believe) is from Illinois (Chicago in particular).

      See ya at the poles.

      A true patriot.

      Pat Rann

    8. Snarky -Crook County says:

      http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2542286/posts

      I do not like this Uncle Sam,

      I do not like his health care scam.

      I do not like these dirty crooks,

      Or how they lie and cook the books.

      I do not like when Congress steals,

      I do not like their secret deals.

      I do not like this speaker, Nan ,

      I do not like this ‘YES WE CAN.’

      I do not like this spending spree,

      I’m smart, I know that nothing’s free.

      I do not like your smug replies,

      When I complain about your lies.

      I do not like this kind of hope.

      I do not like it, nope, nope, nope!

    9. David Bryant, GA says:

      I declined to renew my membership, which is currently past due, in the NRA because of Association lack of opposition to DISCLOSE. While I generally agree with NRA policy, this political decision smells bad to me and DISCLOSE should be defeated.

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    12. Christopher-Duluth, says:

      Michael-Atlanta,Ga; I disagree with you! Corporations have the freedom to express theirself through the political advertising and contributions just as much as the private individual. Read the constituion. Where does it say that only the individual has the freedom of speech. There is absoltuely nothing wrong with coroprations, political or any other type of organization expressing their view as much as the individual does. Often times they can express it louder. Some times I dont like it and even abhore it and other times I agree. That is what makes america great. Any…attack on freedom of speech in any form as long as it does not threaten the safety of the individual (yelling fire in a theater) is a violation of the 1st ammendment of the Constituion. Period! Lets all read this again; "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances".

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    17. Mary says:

      well, my FB is down, and on this day of all days so I cant push this out there. Two cents this is a ploy to stop us from reaching people and trying to get the real message out.

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