'Nobody Is Saying You Can't Run the Ads'?


Today President Obama urged the Senate to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which the House approved last month:

The DISCLOSE Act would simply require corporate political advertisers to reveal who's funding their activities….You'd think that making these reforms would be a matter of common sense, particularly since they primarily involve just making sure that folks who are financing these ads are disclosed so that the American people can make up their own minds. Nobody is saying you can't run the ads—just make sure that people know who in fact is behind financing these ads.

In asserting that "nobody is saying you can't run the ads," Obama seems to have forgotten about the bill's ban on political ads sponsored by companies with government contracts and companies with 20 percent or more foreign ownership. He is also ignoring the prohibitive impact of mandating "stand by your ad" statements that can consume half of a 30-second TV spot, along with the chilling effect of requiring nonprofit interest groups to disclose their donors and comply with burdensome regulations.

If the DISCLOSE Act is all about transparency and has nothing to do with discouraging speech, why did its chief Senate sponsor, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), say "the deterrent effect should not be underestimated"? Why did Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) say he hoped the bill "chills out…all sides" and "keep[s] all outside entities out"? Furthermore, if Obama really believes "the American people can make up their own minds," why does he object so vehemently to Citizens United v. FEC, which lifted restrictions on attempts to persuade them?

Previous coverage of the DISCLOSE Act here.