In March, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision struck down campaign finance limits on political expression by individuals working through corporations and unions as a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. A cry ensued among liberal Democrats predicting doom if they and their special interest allies were required to follow the Constitution. Big Labor’s bosses promised to spend millions to protect the Democratic majority if it would speedily pass legislation to circumvent the decision (and thus the Constitution), but restore limits on their corporate foes.
The resulting DISCLOSE Act, according to its backers, will ensure transparency in campaign ad funding. Thursday, the House of Representatives approved the bill 219-206, with 36 Democrats and 170 Republicans in opposition to the measure, which was written by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Maryland Democrat who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this year, and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who led the Senate Democrats’ campaign panel in 2008.
The bill is full of draconian restrictions on individual political speech expressed via corporations, but gives privileged status to the Democrats’ union masters. A provision pushed by Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Bob Brady, for example, allows unions to transfer unlimited funds among affiliated groups to pay for political ads with no disclosure whatever. That makes campaign funding more transparent?
Then there’s the ban on advocacy for or against a candidate by any company that received Troubled Asset Relief Program funds. That silences General Motors’ white-collar workers, but not the United Auto Workers union, which, oh by the way, got, among other things, $6.5 billion in preferred GM stock, paying a government-guaranteed 9 percent cash dividend. Could the fact the UAW gave more than $2 million to Democrats in 2008 explain why Democratic leaders pushed a proposal that so blatantly favors the union?
Similarly, DISCLOSE curbs political speech for employees of companies receiving more than $7 million in government contracts. Public sector unions that spend millions of recycled tax dollars electing Democrats have no such restrictions. By thus outlawing business funding for or against candidates, DISCLOSE will encourage more funding for corporate lobbyists and marketers targeting government contracts and earmarks.
As usual, DISCLOSE was rammed through the House after being introduced with only a few hours’ notice and too little debate allowed. Because Democrats have abandoned doing a federal budget for the year, couldn’t they find a little more time to allow Congress and the people it is supposed to represent to read and discuss this measure at greater length? Next we will see if Senate Democrats are as determined to throw out the First Amendment as were most of their House colleagues.