Senate to Vote on So-Called “DISCLOSE Act”
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Ahead of the Senate’s cloture vote today on the so-called “DISCLOSE Act,” the U.S. Chamber sent a Key Vote Alert as well as a coalition letter (signed by 124 business organizations) to members of Congress.
The coalition letter says:
This legislation, like its predecessors in the 111th and 112th Congresses, is designed to chill the political speech of corporations, business interests, and others, while giving labor unions special protections.
The bills do not propose genuine reform—the disclosure requirements are transparently political and ultimately unconstitutional. For example:
The legislation is purported to be even-handed in its treatment of labor unions, corporations, and business associations, but the reality is that it is designed to burden business groups significantly more than labor unions.
The legislation’s manifest purpose is to impose exceptional burdens on the speech of corporations and business interests based on their identity as corporations and their presumed hostility to the political objectives of the legislation’s supporters…This impermissible intent is evident from the crafting of the legislation and many of the statements of the legislation’s supporters. Senator Schumer acknowledged that DISCLOSE 2012 is aimed primarily at corporate speech. Senator Patrick Leahy echoed this sentiment, making clear that DISCLOSE 2012 seeks to limit “corporate money” and “corporate influence,” in other words, corporate political speech. Incumbents, of course, have a vested interest in restricting political speech and “outing” critical voices. But such discriminatory speech restrictions do not pass constitutional muster.
By requiring groups to disclose the names and addresses of their donors, the legislation is intended to facilitate retaliation against unpopular or unfavorable political views, which also infringes constitutional rights, because the First Amendment does not permit the government to require membership disclosure if there is a “reasonable probability” that the donors will be subject to “threats, harassment, or reprisals.”
As Bruce Josten writes in the Chamber’s letter, “The clear purpose of S. 3369 is to upend political speech protections at the core of the First Amendment. These rights are too important to the foundation of American democracy to be infringed.”
We hope members of Congress will vote against this legislation as well as any effort to bring it to the Senate floor.