House Expected to Vote Friday On Bill Limiting Pro-Life Groups’ Free Speech
by Steven Ertelt
June 17, 2010
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The House of Representatives is expected to vote on Friday on a bill that would place more limits on pro-life and other political groups when it comes to communicating with supporters about legislative and political activities. The bill, called the DISCLOSE Act, has drawn opposition from several pro-life groups.
The bill would place campaign finance and legislative communications restrictions on groups and potentially force them to make donor records public when they discuss something as typical as how members of Congress vote on pro-life issues.
To build more support for the bill, Democratic leaders included exceptions in it targeted towards removing the objections the NRA had to the legislation.
In the latest developments on the legislation, House Democratic leaders have decided to expand the carve-out from disclosure requirements they gave to the NRA. The new standard lowers the membership requirement for organizations to be exempt from the restrictions and limits.
Originally, groups with more than 1 million members were exempted and that has been reduced to 500,000.
"The number was reduced recognizing that there are groups out there that have a long-standing history of doing grass-roots work. We originally thought some of these
groups would be covered, but they weren’t," one Democratic aide told Roll Call.
But that won’t allow pro-life groups to drop their objections to the bill, which will head to the Rules Committee today and to the House floor Friday.
The National Right to Life Committee is one of a handful of pro-life groups telling its members to call Congress to oppose the bill and saying it would score votes on it because the restrictions would hurt its activities so much.
In a new letter to Congress, NRLC says "there is very little in this bill, despite the pretenses, that is actually intended to provide useful or necessary information to the public. The overriding purpose is precisely the opposite: To discourage, as much as possible, disfavored groups (such as NRLC) from communicating about officeholders."
"The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment protects the right of incorporated groups of citizens to communicate with the public to express opinions about the actions of those who hold or seek federal office. The authors of the DISCLOSE Act have demonstrated that their overriding intent is to impede and deter the exercise of that constitutional right," it added.
Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council, agrees with the analysis and his group is also opposed to the legislation.
"The legislation is designed to shut down grassroots organizations from informing voters on issues that are important to them," he said. "In an unfortunate move the NRA decided self preservation trumped principle and is accepting this affront on the First Amendment as long as they are protected."
"NRA would still be susceptible to some of the other onerous requirements of the bill, though their actions will lead to the dissolution of many good, but smaller organizations that fight for all kinds of freedom," McClusky added.
CatholicVote.org, Citizen Link, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, Students for Life of America and the Traditional Values Coalition are some of the other pro-life groups opposed to the legislation.
The big problem for pro-life groups is a provision that would make them 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 says.
Related web sites:
NRLC letter – https://nrlcomm.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/discloseletter
National Right to Life – https://www.nrlc.org
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