David Keating to Testify to Senate Rules on the Dangers of the DISCLOSE Act

Senate legislation threatens donor privacy and free political speech

July 19, 2022   •  By IFS Staff   •  
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Washington, DC – Institute for Free Speech President David Keating will testify before the Senate Rules Committee at 3 PM on July 19 concerning threats to free political speech in the DISCLOSE Act (S. 443). Keating’s testimony explains that despite hyperbolic rhetoric about “dark money” in elections, the nation currently has more laws mandating public disclosure of political contributions and spending than at any time in our history.

“Elected officials who decry the spread of ‘misinformation’ need to stop misleading the public about political spending. Less than 5 percent of spending in elections comes from groups that do not publicly report the identities of their donors. We are not talking about taming a ‘wild west’ here. We are talking about creating a police state for speech and the most extreme disclosure regime in American history,” said David Keating, President of the Institute for Free Speech, in advance of the hearing.

The DISCLOSE Act would publicly expose the names and addresses of many supporters of nonprofit causes, putting Americans at risk of harassment and retaliation for their beliefs. In addition, the legal and compliance costs for groups will force many smaller grassroots organizations to self-censor. The legislation would significantly increase the cost of criticizing the government, Keating’s testimony explains.

“S. 443 would impose onerous and unworkable standards on the ability of Americans and groups of Americans to discuss the policy issues of the day with elected officials and the public,” reads the written testimony. “S. 443’s substance would help incumbents and expensive campaign finance attorneys while harming the public. The bill would greatly increase the already onerous legal and administrative compliance costs, liability risk, and costs to donor and associational privacy for civic groups that speak about policy issues and politicians. Organizations and their supporters will be further deterred from speaking or be forced to divert additional resources away from their advocacy activities to pay for compliance staff and lawyers.”

The DISCLOSE Act has long been a priority for politicians seeking to stifle political speech from nonprofit advocacy groups. First introduced in 2010, the bill was recently included in H.R. 1, Congressional Democrats’ proposed legislation to overhaul election, speech, and ethics laws. A standalone version of the bill was reintroduced in February 2021 by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

The hearing will take place at 3 PM on July 19 before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. It can be viewed online on the committee’s website here: https://www.rules.senate.gov/hearings/the-disclose-act

To read the full written testimony, click here, or go to: https://www.ifs.org/expert-analysis/testimony-of-david-keating-before-the-u-s-senate-rules-and-administration-committee-on-the-disclose-act/

IFS Staff

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