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I have just received this “press release” from the Institute for Justice
Say goodbye to anonymous speech and political participation: If you give money to an advocacy group that spends money on elections, your personal information may be made public under the DISCLOSE Act.
On Wednesday (TOMORROW), the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on H.R. 5175 (S. 3295 in the Senate), the DISCLOSE Act. As with all campaign finance “reform,” sponsors and supporters of the bill are trying to get the speech of ordinary citizens they disagree with out of politics in the lead-up to a contentious mid-term election. The DISCLOSE Act is an unabashed and shameful attempt to silence organizations and businesses who talk about politics using the money their supporters give them for that very purpose by making political speech more trouble than it is worth.
CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES IMMEDIATELY and tell them to vote NO on the DISCLOSE Act. You can find contact information here: http://www.house.gov/ (use the zip code search function at the upper-left of the page). Don’t forget to forward this important message to your friends and family.
Speaking is not a luxury: It’s a First Amendment right, and it should be free of burdens, costs, obstacles and regulation. As the Institute for Justice has demonstrated in numerous strategic research publications, burdensome campaign finance disclosure regimes discourage political participation in two ways: by placing donors at risk of the very real threat of retaliation by opponents with an axe to grind, and by raising the cost of political participation through red tape and bureaucracy—making speaking too expensive for all but those in the inner circles of power.
Under DISCLOSE, if a (c)(4), similar organization or corporation spends money on independent political speech that tells viewers to support a candidate—or even just names a candidate within a certain period of time before an election (but doesn’t advocate for or against the candidate)—the group will be required to disclose the identities of its supporters who have given as little as $600 in the last year.
In addition, the bill would make more groups report more types of activity by broadening the scope of the types of speech that trigger disclosure, making participation in the political process that much more costly. DISCLOSE would also require groups to feature a video or image of their president stating they support the message, as well as the top donor above $100,000, in every single ad. This disclaimer eats up a valuable and expensive chunk of what often amounts to a mere 15- to 30-second spot.
Right now, your identity is kept secret when you donate to a charity that you want to speak on your behalf. Under DISCLOSE, your name and personal information could be reported for anyone on the internet to find. These same charities will spend a lot more of your money complying with burdensome regulations and filling out paperwork, instead of using your hard-earned money to affect the policy goals you entrusted them to pursue on your behalf.
The DISCLOSE Act runs afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Citizens United and the Constitution and must be stopped. The government can’t force you to jump through regulatory hoops just so you can exercise your First Amendment rights. Contact your representatives immediately and tell them to vote NO on the DISCLOSE Act. We’ll keep you posted on the bill’s status and future votes.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Larry Gilbert, Member, Castle Coalition