It says right here: "Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech".
That's not hard to understand.
Unless, of course, you are a member of Congress. And you really, really want to do it anyway.
So I read this New York Times article with a mix of disgust and amusement:
Congressional Democrats are pushing hard for legislation to rein in the power of special interests by requiring more disclosure of their roles in paying for campaign advertising -- but as they struggle to find the votes they need to pass it they are carving out loopholes for, yes, special interests.First, just as an aside, let me note the huge blind spot in the NYT-ese above, where "Congressional Democrats" are pictured as bravely jousting with "special interests": Isn't it blindingly obvious that, when writing legislation governing campaign expenditures, "Congressional Democrats" might—just might—be considered "special interests" themselves? As Ayn Rand used to say: blank-out.
Anyway: Pun Salad blogged about this legislation, the so-called DISCLOSE Act, last month. (DISCLOSE == "Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections.") My own Congresswoman, Carol Shea-Porter, is one of the co-sponsors of this assault on free speech in the House, which only serves to remind how lightly she takes her sworn oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States."
But, as the NYT article points out, the DISCLOSE Act has rapidly degenerated into an even less principled attack against free speech.
What happened? Well, most notably, the National Rifle Association (NRA) opposed it. Which (in turn) gave a significant number of Democratic congresscritters the shakes.
So, the bill-writers put in an exemption for "organizations that have more than 1 million members, have been in existence for more than 10 years, have members in all 50 states and raise 15 percent or less of their funds from corporations." Conveniently worded so that, as far as anyone knows, the NRA is the only organization that gets under the wire.
John Samples of Cato asks:
I wonder what principle of campaign finance regulation justifies this exemption? Earlier the authors of DISCLOSE said the American people deserve to know who is trying to influence elections. Now it would seem that voters only need information about relatively small, young, geographically-confined organizations that receive more than 15 percent of their money from corporations.Or:
Put another way, if the NRA deserves an exemption, doesn't everyone?[Yes. I think I also deserve a congressional representative who takes his or her duty to the Constitution seriously. I don't have that now.]
The NRA deal (predictably) outraged other groups that didn't make the cut. And, as the Washington Post reports, DISCLOSE might be dead, dead, dead as a result:
Top Democrats abandoned plans for a Friday vote in the House on the legislation, known as the Disclose Act, after liberal groups and members of the Congressional Black Caucus rose up against the deal with the NRA. A lobbying blitz by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups also undermined support for the legislation, aides said.For more details on the Great Loophole Backfire, see this Politico article and ongoing coverage at the Center for Competitive Politics blog.
Oh, and 137 days until what? Election Day, baby.