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Mr. KYL. Mr. President, first of all, I wish to thank the Republican leader, Senator McConnell, for his expertise and leadership on this issue. Secondly, as several of my colleagues have pointed out, the DISCLOSE Act is a direct assault on the first amendment right to free speech. Protecting political speech, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, is one of our most sacred responsibilities.
This is a partisan bill drafted behind closed doors by current and former Democratic campaign committee leaders. It is obviously written to disadvantage Republicans and favor special interests supportive of Democrats. The closed-door process under which the DISCLOSE Act was written contradicts its supporters' professed goal of transparency. It is a partisan rewrite of campaign finance laws without hearings, without testimony, without studies, without a markup--again, written behind closed doors with the help of lobbyists and special interests.
The problems it purports to address are purely hypothetical since there have been no elections since the Citizens United case. I have seen no evidence of any abuse in the current election cycle. This legislation is an attempt to change the rules to protect incumbent candidates from criticism of unpopular decisions and positions. I know none of us like to be criticized, but we must uphold the right of others to criticize us.
Even those of us who opposed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act--BCRA but also known by the name McCain-Feingold--recognize that its authors sought to avoid any partisan advantage. The new rules then applied to everyone, and they only applied after the subsequent election. The same cannot be said for the DISCLOSE Act. It is 117 pages in which the bill's authors pick winners and losers, either through outright prohibitions or restrictions that are so complex they achieve the same result. The effort is too political, benefiting traditional Democratic allies, such as labor unions, while placing burdensome restrictions on for-profit organizations and the associations that represent them.
Let me give you one example regarding the union exemptions. The new law applies to government contractors but not their unions or unions with government contracts or government unions. It is obviously discriminatory. As Leader McConnell has asked, where in the first amendment does it say that only large and entrenched special interests get the ``freedom of speech''?
Here is what the AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, said about the bill in April:
Congressional leaders today took a vitally important first step to begin to address the Supreme Court's recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The AFL-CIO commends these efforts and supports increasing disclosure and reexamining some current campaign finance rules. .....It is imperative that legislation counter the excessive and disproportionate influence by business.
Well, they have made sure it does.
Unlike BCRA, the DISCLOSE Act has an effective date of 30 days after enactment. In other words, proponents want people to stop political speech now, before the midterm elections in November.
Hundreds of diverse organizations oppose this bill, from the ACLU to the chamber of commerce. Let me just quote two.
Here is a letter from several hundred of the Nation's leading trade association and business groups:
By attempting to silence corporations' voice in the political process while enabling unions to retain their enormous influence, Schumer-Van Hollen is a patently unconstitutional threat to the elections process. Schumer-Van Hollen is a direct attack on the rights of the business community and the role our organizations play in the national political dialogue.
And a letter from the National Right to Life organization:
The overriding purpose is ..... to discourage, as much as possible, disfavored groups, such as the [National Right to Life Committee], from communicating about officeholders. .....This legislation has been carefully crafted to maximize short-term political benefits for the dominant faction of one political party, while running roughshod over the First Amendment protections for political speech that have been clearly and forcefully articulated by the Supreme Court.
So I hope my colleagues will recognize the damage they are doing to political discourse in violation of the first amendment that is a result of the legislation that has been drafted here for purely political advantage and will oppose the DISCLOSE Act.
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