Down to the wire on DISCLOSE

As the DISCLOSE Act heads for a cloture vote in the Senate (expected at 2:45 p.m.), various media outlets are reporting that Sen. Joe Lieberman will miss the vote.

This development means that Democrats will almost certainly be unable to invoke cloture and move to passage of this speech-restricting legislation.

Other reports indicate that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) will vote yes to invoke cloture while Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) will vote no. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) is the main question mark.

CCP Chairman Brad Smith just published a commentary on the DISCLOSE Act in the Washington Examiner: “Democrats mount last-ditch P.R. campaign to spin DISCLOSE Act.”

An excerpt:

President Obama continued spinning, claiming that the bill is simply about disclosure.

“Nobody is saying you can’t run the ads—just make sure that people know who in fact is behind financing these ads,” he said.

Actually, Democrats are saying you can’t run the ads: if you’re a company with a government contract of over $10 million (like more than half of the top 50 U.S. companies) or if you’re a company with more than 20 percent foreign shareholders, you can’t even mention a candidate in an ad for up to a full year before the election. What’s remarkable is that these provisions would prohibit speech that was legal even before the Supreme Court decisionThere are no similar prohibitions for unions representing government contractors or unions with foreign membership.

In a Monday conference call with reporters, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, claimed that it  was “completely balanced” and “treats unions and corporations the same.”

Schumer was addressing an exemption he removed from the House bill which exempted large financial transfers among union affiliates. Nonetheless, three provisions remain that advantage Democrats’ union allies while restricting business groups: a threshold of disclosure that effectively exempts unions while ensnaring business groups and the aforementioned restrictions on businesses with government contracts and international investment.

Schumer simply removed one of many special deals for unions that was inserted the day before the House vote.

This cosmetic change to the DISCLOSE Act does not change the fact that it plays favorites with First Amendment rights and rewrites campaign finance law to advantage the majority party mere months before the midterm elections.

Brad also has posted an analysis of the bill at CCP’s website, “DISCLOSE and Disclosure“:

If anyone wants to know why Congress has such a low public reputation nowadays, one need look no further than DISCLOSE. Now, a Senate that hasn’t passed a budget and is not even having hearings on such is going to use time today to debate a measure for no seeming purpose but to give the majority party an issue to demogogue this fall.  We suspect the public will see through the ruse.

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce is running a print ad today urging Senators to vote against the DISCLOSE Act. The National Manufacturers Association issued a release detailing their opposition.

Tune into C-SPAN 2 to see how things turn out for the cloture vote at 2:45 p.m.

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