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The DISCLOSE Act Restricts First Amendment Rights


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement Thursday regarding First Amendment rights and the DISCLOSE Act:

"As I stand here this morning, House Democrats are desperately trying to round up the votes they need to pass Congress's latest effort to do what the First Amendment specifically says it can't -- namely, to make a law abridging the freedom of speech.

"The first thing to say about the so-called DISCLOSE Act is that it was authored behind closed doors without even a flicker of sunlight. In other words, a bill that's purportedly about bringing transparency to the electoral system was written without any. Just yesterday, a 45-page amendment was proposed to the bill without any public oversight.

"The second thing to say about this bill is that it was written by the House Democrats' campaign committee chairman, who's been out trumpeting it as a `response' to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Citizens United.

"As I noted yesterday, Democrats have done this before with free speech rulings they've found to be politically inconvenient. In the mid-90s, they didn't like Justice Breyer's decision in Colorado Republicans, so the Clinton Administration and Elena Kagan set about finding ways to benefit Democrats at the expense of Republicans. So past is prologue.

"This bill isn't about preserving any principle of transparency. It's about protecting incumbent Democrat politicians. As for the substance, a brief review of the bill itself shows that the DISCLOSE Act is about as ill-named as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and ensures as much freedom as the poorly named Employee Free Choice Act. But, of course, House Democrats have said they don't care what they pass. They just want to pass something. Now that's quite the way to legislate.

"Supporters of the bill say it's needed to deal with special interests. But the loopholes Democrats wrote into it show that they view some interests as more special than others.

Take for example the spate of new speech prohibitions that did NOT exist prior to the Citizens United decision.

"That's right; this bill goes far beyond what the court held to muzzle the speech of some while granting a pass for others.

* Expansive new restrictions on government contractors and TARP recipients, but not their unions or government unions

* Expansive new speech restrictions on domestic subsidiaries which employ Americans who pay American taxes -- without restricting unions at these same companies or international unions.

* And that's just in the first few pages. Over the next few weeks I'll highlight more of these "winners and losers" provisions Democrats are advocating in this bill.

"If there were any doubt that this one-sided bill isn't about principle, but about changing the rules to the political game, just look at the special treatment House Democrats have been shopping around for weeks in an effort to sell this bill. They've engaged in a game of special interest carve outs which is the legislative equivalent of a game of Twister.

"For example, in drafting a bill that House Democrats say is designed to deal with special interests, they've deliberately exempted what they have long called one of the biggest special interests of all: the National Rifle Association.

"So in writing a bill that's supposedly about diminishing the influence of special interests, Democrat leaders cut a deal to allow a chosen few to operate unfettered by its restrictions, thereby enhancing the power of those chosen few. Apparently they didn't learn their lesson from the reaction they got to the Cornhusker Kickback.

"What's transpiring in the House right now with this bill turns the First Amendment on its head. Incumbent politicians are intentionally protecting some large groups so they can muster the votes to restrict many more citizens groups that have less political clout, but whose participation in the political process the incumbent politicians find inconvenient.

"Let me be clear, I support the Second Amendment, and I support the NRA's vigorous exercise of its First Amendment rights in order to defend the Second Amendment rights of its members. But this is not about the Democrats' affinity for the 2nd Amendment. If it were, they would have carved out an exception for the Gun Owners of America as well. As it is, the GOA vehemently opposes this bill. Why? Because they know it restricts First Amendment rights.

"Mr. President: this bill is opposed by over 350 groups ranging from the Sierra Club and the ACLU, to the Chamber, the NFIB, and National Right to Life.

"That's right; Democrats have done a unique thing here: they've united the left and the right -- in opposition to the effort takes away political speech from some, and enhances it for others. These organizations, standing on firm First Amendment principles, have been vigorously opposing this effort to stifle their speech.

"And Mr. President I stand with them in asking each and every one of my colleagues to join me in honoring the oath we took to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America -- and in particular, the First Amendment to free speech."

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