National Journal post: A Partisan Power Grab

DISCLOSE (which stands for “Democracy is Served by Casting Light on Spending in Elections”—you know a bill is bad news when it needs a gimmicky title) is not bipartisan in any meaningful sense: there are 218 Republicans in Congress, and only Rep. Castle has signed on. The bill’s lead sponsors, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen and immediate past Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Chuck Schumer, drafted the bill behind closed doors, rejected Republican requests for input, and now seek to move the bill without committee hearings.

Why the secrecy, and now the rush? Representative Van Hollen and Senator Schumer, along with other Democrats, have made no secret of their concern that corporations will disproportionately support Republicans, so DISCLOSE is an effort to shut them down not through the blanket prohibition struck down in Citizens United, but through excessive regulation. It’s easy to see why Republicans—including 20 of the 21 Republicans in Congress who voted for McCain-Feingold—haven’t signed on.

Democrats argue that such regulation is needed to give the public information on political speakers, but in fact, anyone making independent expenditures is already required to identify themselves in the ads, and to file reports with the Federal Election Commission on their spending. Meanwhile, while they simultaneously argue for an immigration amnesty, Democrats fan the flames of xenophobia, warning that without the added regulation of DISCLOSE “foreign corporations” will exert influence in U.S. elections—even though the law already prohibits foreign nationals from any involvement in U.S. elections. Meanwhile, the Democrats abandon decades of Congressional policy of treating corporations and unions similarly, singling out only corporations for much of this regulation (such as the provisions on U.S. affiliates of foreign corporations, and provisions regulating government contractors). Virtually every provision in the bill is ripe for Constitutional challenge.

So whether this bill gains traction depends on whether or not Senate Republicans are prepared to let the Democrats intentionally silence what the Democrats believe will be pro-Republican speakers. I don’t think the GOP is that stupid.

Read the rest of this post at National Journal‘s Under the Influence Experts blog.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.