Campaign Finance

DISCLOSE Act Passes House, Goes to Senate

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Yesterday the House passed the DISCLOSE Act, a response to Citizens United that imposes highly discriminatory burdens on freedom of speech in the name of transparency. In a column a few weeks ago, I explained how the law restricts the freedom of disfavored speakers (such as government contractors and corporations partly owned by foreigners) while exempting constituencies that tend to support the Democrats (such as labor unions and grant recipients). Since then the bill has become even more arbitrary, applying speech-chilling requirements (such as disclosure of all donors who give $600 or more) to small grassroots organizations but not to big lobbies such as the NRA and the AARP. Last week Harvard law professor Larry Lessig, a prominent critic of Citizens United who was never enthusiastic about the DISCLOSE Act, cited the loopholes in announcing his opposition to the bill, which now goes to the Senate. "These exemptions would create a two-tiered system of campaign finance laws and First Amendment protections," he said, "one for the most powerful and influential and another for everyone else."

On Monday I discussed the ACLU's reasons for opposing the DISCLOSE Act. The Center for Competitive Politics has an updated analysis of the bill here (PDF).