High Noon for Free Speech

Jul 23, 2010

Actually, a little past noon, but on Tuesday July 27th at 2:45pm we will get a head count of how many Senators actually meant it when they solemnly swore (or affirmed) to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States." Tell them to mean it.

Less than 24 hours after Sen. Schumer introduced a new version of the DISCLOSE Act, Senator Reid abruptly filed for a cloture vote last night. One Democratic Senate aide, (ahem, unnamed) described, to CQ, the new bill as "an appeal to the moderate Republicans on the fence about the bill to come back to the table" adding "It’s a good-faith nod." 

Coming back to the table implies that there is room for negotiation.  The push for a vote shows that this is really an appeal to moderate Republicans to give their soul for...well, they don't even get Wales.

Still Big Labor is trying to help Schumer out with a little mock outrage:

The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, is taking issue with a new version of the Disclose Act that Schumer filed Thursday. "Based on reports, we are concerned that recent developments could hamper working families’ ability to have a voice in the political process,” said an AFL-CIO spokesman. "We continue to review the legislation and fight to ensure that the final bill addresses the tilted advantage that big business has enjoyed for far too long."

Of course the recent development the union spokesman* is talking about is merely the dropping of one of the provisions exempting unions from the bill:

The bill specifically jettisons a provision dealing with requirements that all businesses, unions and groups must disclose transfers to or from or between their affiliates of $50,000 or more, according to a Senate aide* familiar with the changes. In order to appease labor unions, the House added language exempting any groups from reporting such transfers if the source of the funds is member dues, not large donations from corporations or individuals.

This is a nice little distraction from all the other favoritism directed at unions by the bill. Oh, and when the union spokesman* expresses concern for "working families'" he means "working familes' in union households."  The second part of the statement shows that the AFL-CIO is more than willing to gag the other 87.7% of American workers -- and to be sure, that is what this bill does. To Jeff Patch:

Schumer claims that DISCLOSE "simply requires disclosure, which in the Supreme Court decision was specifically said to be constitutional. And the disclosure is across the board." Wrong.

DISCLOSE would ban-not require disclosure of, ban-independent political spending by companies with sizable federal contacts, including over half of the top 50 U.S. companies (even when the contracts are a negligible percentage of their total revenue and even if they're competitively bid in a transparent manner). Ford Motor Co. would be prohibited from spending money advocating the election or defeat of federal candidates, but the United Auto Workers union could spend freely. DISCLOSE would impose no similar burden on unions that directly negotiate for salary and benefits with the government. In addition, it would leave out unions that represent workers at government contractors, who obviously have a comparable economic interest in whether the firm receives government contracts.

DISCLOSE would also ban the independent expenditures and electioneering communications of U.S. companies with more than 20 percent international investment. Verizon Wireless would be prohibited from spending, but the Communications Workers of America would be free to spend unlimited sums. Although DISCLOSE backers claim to target the international investment provision at eliminating foreign influence in elections, it targets only for-profit corporations, exempting unions with substantial foreign involvement. For example, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers represents workers in both the U.S. and Canada, and has a Canadian director. Yet they would be able to spend unlimited amounts.

Schumer's assertion that the DISCLOSE Act is "very fair and does not impede anyone's rights," leads us to believe that Schumer has not even read his own bill.

There is some good news.  The First Amendment might yet prevail, as Roll Call reports:

Democratic aides* said Reid is intent on forcing a fight, largely because he and other leaders see a political advantage in making Republicans defend a system that Democrats argue** favors powerful interests. "This is a good issue for us. Don't be surprised if you see it more than once," a senior Democratic aide* said late Thursday night.

George Will reminds us:

...Beware when the political class preens about protecting us from "special interests." The most powerful, persistent and anti-constitutional interest is the political class. Bradley Smith, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, says Disclose should stand for Democratic Incumbents Seeking to Contain Losses by Outlawing Speech in Elections. It is a reason for voters to multiply those losses.

It really is surprising that a senior Democratic aide* feels that their best issue, surprising that is until you read the rest of the news this week:

Home sales fall, jobless claims rise - New data released Thursday showed falling home sales last month and rising claims for unemployment benefits last week.

Given their poor performance on jobs, maybe abridging the free speech rights of Americans in order to protect themselves from accountability is their strongest issue. How sad is that. 

* (ahem, unnamed)

** HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

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