DISCLOSE Act Draws Fire

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The Center for Competitive Politics took aim at the DISCLOSE Act
Wednesday in a letter to Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), chairman of the
House Rules Committee.

"[T]he [bill] contains several
provisions that would ban political speech by a significant number of
business
corporations," said CCP President Sean Parnell. The bill's
backers say it is mostly about disclosure--that if corporations are
going to be allowed to campaign against candidates, just who is doing
the campaigning should be clear.

The committee, which determines
how a bill is voted on, is preparing Monday afternoon to take up the
bill. Its backers, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Van
Hollen (D-Md.), say the bill would repair some of what they see as the
damage done to the campaign finance system by the Supreme Court's ruling
in the Citizens United case. That was the decision that lifted the ban
on using corporate and union treasury funds to directly fund ads
promoting or opposing candidates (electioneering communications) in the
run-up to elections.

Among many other things, the DISCLOSE Act
(the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections
Act) would require a number of financial disclosures of donor
contributions, ban direct funding by corporations with government
contracts worth more than $10 million; and expand the "electioneering
communications" period from 60 to 120 days before an election.

Parnell
says that would disqualify half of the top 50 companies from supporting
or opposing candidates. The bill's backers argue that the point is to
prevent such companies from leveraging big bucks to influence the
outcome of elections.

"Despite the sloganeering by supporters of
this bill to gut the First Amendment, the DISCLOSE Act would silence
businesses with competitive government contracts, U.S. companies that
attract minimal foreign investment and advocacy nonprofits seeking to
speak to Americans about issues," Parnell said in the letter.

The ACLU has come out against the bill. Among its
concerns are that the disclosure obligations on the "functional
equivalent" of electioneering communications could discourage issue
advocacy and that the disclosure obligations for TV and radio
ads--funders would have to appear on-air to take responsibility for the
ad, as candidates do now. It also has issues with the restrictions on
contractors and foreign ownership.

The bill, which has the
backing of the administration, could get a House vote as early as June
24.

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