In the latest version of the DISCLOSE Act, a loophole tailored for the NRA (and coveted by labor unions) has been expanded to let somewhat smaller interest groups escape the law's burdensome reporting and endorsement requirements. The new membership cutoff is 500,000, which would cover, among other well-known lobbies that are not quite as big as the NRA and the AARP, the American Civil Liberties Union. True to its mission, the ACLU is nevertheless defending the First Amendment rights of less lucky speakers. In a June 17 letter to House members, the group lays out several objections to the bill:
1. The DISCLOSE Act fails to preserve the anonymity of small donors, thereby especially chilling the expression rights of those who support controversial causes….
2. The DISCLOSE Act would chill not only express advocacy on political candidates, but also issue advocacy….
3. The DISCLOSE Act imposes impractical requirements on those who wish to communicate using broadcasting messages….
4. The DISCLOSE Act imposes unjust restrictions on contractors, TARP participants and corporations with minimal foreign participation.
Here's one illustration of how the bill's "disclosure" requirements can be expected to deter speech (the admitted goal of its sponsors):
The individual or organizational disclosure statement, the significant funder disclosure statement, and the top-five funders statement each take up six seconds, meaning more than half of many 30-second television messages would be filled with compelled disclosures. It is difficult to even conceive of a way to use 15-second messages.
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