The debate on the DISCLOSE Act is coming to a head today.
Our friends at the Center for Competitive Politics reported that the Senate will vote today on whether to cut off debate on the Act. It appears that the Senate leadership doesn’t have the sixty votes it needs to end the Republican filibuster of the bill, but has decided to move forward anyway in the hopes of scoring political points ahead of the mid-term elections.
The DISCLOSE Act’s sponsors and supporters weren’t exactly subtle in their attempt to portray the bill as merely promoting openness and transparency. After all, they named the thing the “Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections” Act. But despite these efforts, it’s been clear from the start that the Act’s purpose was to silence disfavored speakers. As we have noted before, Senator Charles Schumer has said that the Act’s “deterrent effect should not be underestimated.” Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) told his fellow House Democrats that they should vote for the Act because, otherwise, “we will see more Republicans getting elected.” And, just yesterday, President Obama said that passing the DISCLOSE Act would help “reduc[e] corporate and even foreign influence over our elections. . . .”
The Supreme Court in Citizens United struck down the ban on corporate independent advocacy because it acted “to silence entities whose voices the Government deems to be suspect.” The DISCLOSE Act tries to silence those suspect voices once more. But the First Amendment doesn’t let the government play favorites with freedom of speech. Here’s to hoping that the Senate has taken that lesson to heart.