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Action on anti-speech DISCLOSE Act postponed in House

The House Rules Committee did not act on H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act, as originally scheduled Thursday (earlier post), which means the full House will delay its consideration until after the week-long Memorial Day recess.

Business groups, and especially the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have been the most vocal critics of the bill, which targets corporate speech while leaving labor union political activity relatively unaffected. (The Hill, "Chamber: Citizens United 'Fix' gives unions upper hand") The National Right to Life Committee has now detailed its vigorous opposition to H.R. 5175 in a four-page letter to Congress. (Letter, news release.) The conclusion lays bare the political motivations of the sponsors:

The provisions we have summarized, among others, clearly violate the principles laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of landmark First Amendment rulings, culminating in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, 551 U.S. 449 (2007) and Citizens United. And, the authors of the bill know this full well. Yet, they hope to ram this legislation into law - including a specific provision making it effective 30 days after enactment, without any interpretative regulations from the FEC - to set up legal minefields that they hope will, for at least a year or more, deter disfavored organizations from effectively communicating with the public about the public policy agenda of the current Administration and of the dominant faction of the majority party of the current Congress.

Knowing more about politics than the law, that's our reading too: Supporters recognize the bill is constitutionally flawed, but the legislation is more a populist hammer to pound home an anti-business message during the campaigns. One amendment proposed to the Rules Committee by "progressive" Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) acknowledges the constitutional point: "#9 Would express a sense of Congress that if this Act is held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Congress should immediately consider for ratification an amendment to the Constitution to permit Congress to regulate the expenditure of funds by corporations engaging in political speech." Edwards had already proposed a constitutional amendment to specifically exclude political speech by corporations from First Amendment protections. (Reason, "We Must Amend the Constitution to Help Donna Edwards Stay in Office")

Jim Hightower, the eminence gris terrible of the populist left, is also pushing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, "Disclosing the 'Disclose' bill in Congress."

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.