Constitutional Law

ACLU Slams the DISCLOSE Act

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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.

Read the six-page letter (PDF) for further elaboration of these arguments. I made similar points in my June 2 column about the DISCLOSE Act.

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  1. We’re overdue for a new case on compelled speech. The precedent on this actually isn’t all bad.

    The Court has ruled that you can’t be required to say the pledge of allegiance, and can’t be required to have a license plate with a political motto (ironically “Live Free or Die”).

    1. That was the people with the tape over the slogan, right?

    2. So, the days of mandatory health insurance are numbered?

  2. Hey, good for the ACLU. It’s nice to have principles now and again. They have been bad about putting politics before mission in recent years, but this is apparently one situation where they aren’t doing that.

    1. Yeah, usually they’re out there making the world safe for criminals and/or suing someone for having a nativity scene up.

      1. I fully expect the people they’re helping to be scum, especially in speech cases. Illinois Nazis, you know. If they were consistent about sticking to their constitutional mission, that would be fine.

        But they aren’t.

      2. I’m fairly certain that a privately funded nativity scene on private property has never come under attack by the ACLU. Government funded (those are my tax dollars too you superstitious boobs) is a different story.

        And we allknow that as soon as some mouth breathing cop and a politically motivated DA agree that someone is guilty, the whole fair trial thingee is completely unnecessary.

        FTR – This atheist doesn’t really give a shit about nativity scenes or crosses on mountaintops but I understand those who do.

        I do give a pachyderm sized shit about defendents rights. Do you think all those people who were on death row and later exonerated by DNA evidence deserved to die anyway? Does the damned appeals process holding up their executions bother you?

        1. I believe the ACLU has gone after privately funded nativity scenes on public property.

          For what that’s worth.

          1. I think so too. It’s stupid thing to go to court over IMHO. But I see the point, it’s a stste imprimatur of a religion.

            Like I said, I don’t really give a shit whether the creche scene is in front of city hall or not.

      3. Yeah, the ACLU never does anything worthwhile, they just do things to piss off conservative statists who love to use my tax dollars to promote their moronic religion. Even if that were true, I’d still have to say they’re doing good work.

      4. I’m sure you’d love it if your town spent your tax dollars putting up a celebration of Ramadan.

  3. True to its mission, the ACLU is nevertheless defending the First Amendment rights of less lucky speakers.

    Wait, the ACLU has a mission beyond being useful idiots?

  4. Could someone please explain the libertarian hate/disdain for the ACLU? I confess that it baffles me on the face of it.

    1. Well, I’m ambivalent towards the organization as it seems to get bogged down in politics a little too often. On the other hand, they do fight the good fight and have done much to help protect certain liberties.

    2. There is no libertarian hate for the ACLU; there is “I say I’m a libertarian but I’m actually a Republican douchebag” hate for the ACLU.

      1. Considering the ACLU’s refusal to stand for the second amendment, support of welfare, and support for affirmative action, there are plenty of reasons for libertarians to be weary of the ACLU. Unfortunately, most criticism of the ACLU seems to be conservative culture warriors pissed that they can’t use the state to promote their religion.

      2. Yeah, nothing is more “libertarian” than litigating for affirmative action. Like their early patron Stalin the ACLU is a bunch of commies who are occasional allies.

    3. The ACLU has time and time again sided with Democratic interests above civil liberties. And I’m not even talking about the culture wars. Most recently, they were guilty of endorsing campaign finance restrictions: http://online.wsj.com/article/…..75486.html

      1. And on hate speech. The ACLU has definitely played Democratic politics. But that’s not always the case.

        1. True. I think the Christials should appreciate their defending religious freedom more than they complain about the town square shit.

          1. There’s a tension between the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses that most people don’t get.

  5. I had to join the ACLU after losing a bet that the health care bill would fail. Now I am almost regretting burning my membership card. I am not, however regretting burning my NRA membership card. They’ll never see another penny from me.

  6. I wrote a letter to the NRA regarding their carving out of that special exception. Apparently so did a lot of people. The NRA released a statement of their opinion, basically that their highest duty is to protect the 2nd Amendment, and they can’t get bogged down in a fight about the 1st Amendment if it endangers that mission, so they stopped applying pressure once they were exempted. I don’t like that position, but at least I can understand it.

    1. I gave up on them after they failed to support Gura’s case in Heller, took the due process course in MacDonald, and asked for a modest ruling in Citizens United. Now this. Fuck them.

  7. The NRA has gone a little overboard to whip up the members into contributing, however, if Obummer runs in 2012 and wins, he will use his position as a lame duck to push his real agenda of socialism and extreme gun control. The NRA might be handy to have around then.

  8. I’ve had brief discussions with the Sunlight Foundation about NAACP v. Alabama, which they said that they supported, yet they also support this bill. Personally, I don’t see much difference between the two situations– and neither does the ACLU.

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