Two leading pro-life groups have a message for the U.S. Senate: Do not vote for the DISCLOSE Act that would take away important free speech rights our organizations enjoy currently.
The National Right to Life Committee has been leading an effort for months to get the Senate to oppose the bill and it says the latest version of the measure, S. 3369, would “evade the holdings of the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC (2010), and to discourage and reduce speech that criticizes or annoys those who hold federal office.”
“NRLC is opposed to invoking cloture on the motion to proceed to this legislation, and intends to include any such roll call in its scorecard of key votes for the 112th Congress, as we did for the 111th Congress,” NRLC said in a letter before today’s vote. “This legislation 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 in a series of landmark First Amendment rulings.”
“Enactment of the DISCLOSE Act would not be a curb on corruption, but itself a type of corruption – an abuse of the lawmaking power, 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,” NRLC says.
NRLC’s letter goes to the heart of the free speech concerns the DISCLOSE Act presents:
NRLC is the furthest thing from a “shadow” group. Our organization’s name and contact information always appear on our public communications, and we openly proclaim the public policies that we advocate. But 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, 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. Indeed, the bill would benefit from a truth-in-labeling amendment to clarify that “DISCLOSE” actually stands for “Deterring Independent Speech about Congress except by Labor Organizations and Selected Elites.”
All of the cant by backers of this legislation about “buying elections” and “protecting democracy” is intended to obscure the reality that neither National Right to Life nor any other incorporated group has any power whatever to “influence elections,” no matter how much money is available, except by informing and persuading individual citizens – all of them adults with a presumed capacity to make up their own minds about which messages they will accept and act on. It is precisely that process of informing and persuading that the crafters of this legislation fear and seek to suppress – all the while seeking to hide their self-serving purposes behind layers of sanctimonious, pseudo-populist rhetoric.
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, agrees with the assessment and his group also opposes the bill.
“Here is a Washington riddle for you: How do you know when Democrats are worried that this election cycle might be bad for them?” he said. “When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pushes for a vote on limiting free speech. Once again the beleaguered Majority Leader, fearful the word “Majority” will be removed from his title if his party does poorly this November, is pushing for a vote on the Obama/Pelosi/Reid version of campaign finance.”
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“The bill purports to be even handed in its treatment of political players, but the reality is that it is designed to give labor unions a pass,” Perkins explained. “And the bill’s structural favoritism of labor unions is no surprise. From 2005 to 2011, labor unions spent $4.4 billion supporting liberal candidates and causes, including pushing for same-sex marriage and unrestricted abortion. In 2011 the AFL -CIO alone spent $316 million, which is an enormous figure, especially considering that 2011 was a nonelection year. In short, Reid and President Obama’s claims of “unfairness in the system” are largely bogus claims in an effort to further create a system that favors them.”
Perkins concludes: “At least twice the current Supreme Court has called similar legislation unconstitutional; however that matters little to Reid. The First Amendment still matters to FRC Action, which is why we will be scoring the cloture vote on S.3369 when it comes up for a vote. Please call your Senators and ask them to oppose this effort to quiet the voices of millions of Americans.”