After carving out exemptions for the NRA to the new, restrictive campaign finance and incumbency protection legislation — and then again broadening the descriptors for more issue advocacy organization exemptions — Democrat leaders still lack the votes to pass this new assault on the First Amendment.
According to Roll Call newspaper:
The new standard lowers the membership requirement for outside groups from 1 million members to 500,000. Those groups would still need to have members in 50 states, have existed for 10 years and can accept no more than 15 percent of their funding from corporate or union sources. The broader bill, called the DISCLOSE Act, comes in response to the controversial Supreme Court decision in January that struck down limits on corporate and union spending in elections. The bill would force groups participating in elections to name their top donors, among other changes.
It was not immediately clear which groups would qualify under the new carve-out, though the Sierra Club, with 750,000 members, appears likely to meet the standard. A House Democratic aide said the change was not made with any particular groups in mind. “The number was reduced recognizing that there are groups out there that have a long-standing history of doing grass-roots work. We originally thought some of these groups would be covered, but they weren’t,” the aide said. “This keeps all of the teeth of the bill, but it also sets a uniform standard for groups to meet.”
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Democrats have been scrambling to shut down conservative political speech before the November elections this year since the January U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC that found freedom of speech applies to everyone: individuals, corporations and unions.
Discontented with a more level playing field, Democrats threw together the DISCLOSE Act, a very lengthy and complicated piece of legislation designed solely to undo the court’s decision.
The First Amendment was written to specifically safeguard religious and political speech — not to protect federally-funded access to pornography on public library computers or to make available through public funding an “artist’s” rendition of a crucifix suspended in a jar of urine.
Political speech won a great victory with the postponement of the vote, if only for a weekend reprieve.