DownsizeDC.org
June 21, 2010
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: Defeat the DISCLOSE Act
By James Wilson

Quote of the Day: "As we noted in our amicus brief supporting Citizens United, the FEC now has regulations for 33 types of contributions and speech, and 71 different types of speakers. Regardless of the abstract merit of the various arguments for and against limits on political contributions and spending, this very complexity raises serious concerns about whether the law can be enforced consistent with the First Amendment." -- 8 former Commissioners of the Federal Election Commission, writing in the Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2010

The word "disclose," as used in the title of the DISCLOSE Act, is a silly acronym that stands for "Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections."

We couldn't disagree more.

The provisions of this bill (H.R. 5175 and S. 3295) would actually . . .

* Protect incumbents from competition by other candidates, and from criticism by citizens' groups.
* Violate your First Amendment rights to free speech, free press, and assembly.
* Harm your First Amendment right to petition Congress for a redress of grievances.
* Crush your Ninth Amendment right to associate with others for peaceful purposes, such as defeating incumbent office holders and electing new representatives.

It's important to understand that . . .

* Incumbent politicians support campaign finance laws, like the DISCLOSE Act, because these laws kill your ability to fire and replace them.
* Media companies also love these laws because they cripple your ability to be your own media, by joining with others to fund political advertising campaigns.

Unlike you, and the political organizations you support, media companies enjoy completely unrestricted freedoms of speech, press, and association. They can raise and spend unlimited amounts . . .

* to tell you what you should believe,
* and which candidates are worth considering,
* while completely ignoring or ridiculing those candidates who don't support the Establishment Ideology of Crony Capitalism and Welfare-Warfare Statism.

Specifically, in this case, the DISCLOSE Act would harm DownsizeDC.org, Inc, and other organizations like it. This harm would come in many ways, including the following . . .

If we spend more than $10,000 on political communications during a calendar year we would have to report to the government, and to the general public, ALL donors who have given between $600 or $1,000, depending on the type of political communications we wanted to express.

This may sound trivial, but it's actually ominous . . .

* Instead of simply exercising our rights to free expression we would have to start thinking about whether or not something we wanted to say would trigger the requirements of this law.
* We would also have to start spending money that our donors gave for one purpose, such as educating the public, to comply with this law.
* These reporting requirements will also have a chilling effect on donations. Those who fear potential retaliation from Congress, or who simply value their privacy, may decide to cease making donations.

And that's exactly what the DISCLOSE proponents want -- they want to reduce political expression by groups that represent your anti-Statist ideals. They want to silence DC Downsizers and other groups that oppose the imposition of new burdens on the American people.

This danger is especially severe with larger donors who may have business interests that could be harmed by incumbent politicians. Business leaders know that politicians routinely use their power to reward friends and punish enemies. That's why the DISCLOSE Act also requires that . . .

Both the head of an organization, AND the top contributor to any broadcast ad, must both include recorded statements that they approve the message. Television ads and political mailings, must also list the top five contributors to the organization.

* Once again, this will have a chilling effect on contributions, and once again, this is what incumbent politicians want, because it will reduce the amount of criticism and competition directed at them.
* This requirement will also create administrative headaches. Fundraising materials will have to contain disclosure requirements, and database software will have to be re-programmed to account for these requirements.
* The cost of making ads will also increase, because top donors will have to travel to record their endorsements.
* The broadcast time required to say "this message was funded by... and I approve this message" will also eat into the educational portion of every ad.

According to eight former members of the Federal Election Commission, writing in the Wall Street Journal . . .

In many 30-second ads, DISCLOSE would require no fewer than six statements as to who is paying for the ad (the current law already requires one such statement). These disclaimers would take up as much as half of every ad.

The DISCLOSE Act will also prohibit communications that could be interpreted as advocating a candidate's election or defeat, even if the communication doesn't specifically use those words. This is potentially the most dangerous provision of this legislation given that it is COMPLETELY SUBJECTIVE.

No one will be able to know for sure if they are violating this law when they prepare an ad or other communication, so it will be safer to simply remain silent. Or, they could choose to divert even more of their donor's money hiring lawyers before making each and every move. 

Please use DownsizeDC.org's Educate the Powerful System to tell your elected Representatives to oppose the DISCLOSE Act.

We urge you to spread the word about this important issue. Forward this to friends and share on Facebook.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer!

Jim Babka
President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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