Pro-Life Group Opposes Disclose Act Campaign Finance Bill Over Free Speech

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 28, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Group Opposes Disclose Act Campaign Finance Bill Over Free Speech

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 28
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — The National Right to Life Committee is asking members of Congress to oppose the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175), on free speech concerns. The pro-life group called the legislation a "bullying political power grab," which is "not a curb on corruption, but itself a type of corruption.

NRLC says the measure is "a corruption of the lawmaking process, by which incumbent lawmakers employ the threat of criminal sanctions, among other deterrents, to reduce the amount of private speech regarding the actions of the lawmakers themselves."

The pro-life group is so concerned about the measure that it will include the dispositive roll calls on it in its scorecard of key pro-life votes for the current Congress.

In a four-page letter to members of the House, NRLC Executive Director David O’Steen and Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said the bill "has been carefully crafted to maximize short-term political benefits for the dominant faction of one political party, while running roughshod over the First Amendment protections for political speech that have been clearly and forcefully articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court."

The letter discusses a number of ways in which the legislation is designed to "to discourage, as much as possible, disfavored groups (such as NRLC) from communicating about officeholders, by exposing citizens who support such efforts to harassment and intimidation, and by smothering organizations in layer on layer of record keeping and reporting requirements, all backed by the threat of civil and criminal sanctions."

In a bit of humor, the letter suggests the bill be amended to clarify that "DISCLOSE" actually stands for "Deterring Independent Speech about Congress except by Labor Organizations and Selected Elites."

House Democrats planned to bring the bill forward today but, faced by a rising chorus of protests from a broad array of organizations, party leaders have postponed a vote until after June 7.

In the letter, NRLC complains it is already too difficult for pro-life advocates to make their voices heard in the political arena.

As eight former members of the Federal Election Commission pointed out in a May 19 letter to the Committee on House Administration, “the FEC now has differing regulations for 33 types of contributions and speech and 71 different types of speakers.”

"The federal laws and regulations governing “political” speech already consume more than 800 pages, and the FEC has published more than 1,200 pages in the Federal Register explaining its decisions. But that is not enough for the sponsors of H.R. 5175, because the bill would add 90 pages of additional barbed-wire regulatory barriers to speech about policymakers and pending legislation," NRLC noted.

The bill would codify a vague and expansive definition of “express advocacy” under which any expenditure for a public communication that “takes a position on a candidate’s character, qualification, or fitness for office” might be deemed to be an “independent expenditure” and therefore subject to numerous burdensome and intrusive regulations.

One of those regulations involves NRLC and other pro-life groups having to identify donors publicly anytime it runs communications in certain times that ask people to contact Congress about legislation related to pro-life concerns.

"Our members and supporters have a right to support our public advocacy about important and controversial issues without having their identifying information posted on the Internet, exposing them to harassment or retribution by those who may disagree with their beliefs," NRLC concluded.

Related web sites:
NRLC letter –
National Right to Life –

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