Shotgun Sellout: House Democrats exempt NRA from DISCLOSE Act

June 14, 2010   •  By Sean Parnell
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Late today comes word, courtesy of Politico, that a significant barrier to the Congressional Democrats’ efforts to stifle unwelcome political speech in the upcoming elections with the DISCLOSE Act has been removed. From the story:

House Democrats have reached an agreement with the National Rifle Association on campaign-finance legislation that would roll back the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, removing a major obstacle on the bill, according to House sources.

The deal would exempt the NRA and some other large organizations from strict campaign finance disclosures in the bill…

The new agreement would exempt organizations that have over one million members, have been in existence for more than 10 years, have members in all 50 states, and raise 15 percent or less of their funds from corporations, from the disclosure requirements. The NRA, with four million members, would fall into the exempted category…

It’s hard to blame the National Rifle Association too much for abandoning the First Amendment here. They are, after all, a Second Amendment organization, and we should expect them to be looking after their own interests in this area.

But the decision by Congressional Democrats to exempt only the largest, most politically powerful, well-established, and deep-pocketed organizations in the country from onerous and burdensome regulations on political speech while smaller organizations face intrusive and burdensome, is simply astounding.

For decades, the so-called campaign finance reform community has touted itself as on the side of the “little guy,” bravely standing up to powerful “special interests” to ensure “average Americans” don’t have their voices “drowned out” by big-spending groups. Groups like, for example, the National Rifle Association.

Apparently, though, Congressional Democrats are more comfortable with the idea of large, well-established interest groups speaking out in politics than they are with smaller, new organizations of citizens who might want to add their voices to political discussions.

Anyone who believed that so-called campaign finance reform was about protecting the voice of the “average American” from “special interests” is going to be in for a rather rude awakening when they see the Shotgun Sellout that Congressional Democrats have just negotiated with the National Rifle Association.

UPDATE: A fellow traveler points out the statement from the NRA on the day of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United:

Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, said, “This ruling is a victory for anyone who believes that the First Amendment applies to each and every one of us… This is a defeat for arrogant elitists who wanted to carve out free speech as a privilege for themselves and deny it to the rest of us…”

Sean Parnell

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