Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Left Plans To Squelch Opposing Views--Again

We all have become accustomed to the fact that liberals love freedom of speech so long as the speech agrees with their point of view. Most of the time, when someone outsmarts them on an issue, they turn to their friends in the mainstream media or make threats of going to their friendly leftist judges. But once in awhile, they go all the way and attempt to legislate the First Amendment out of existence.

The Democrats have not been shy about doing everything in their current position of power to shut down any opposition to the statist agenda that now guides that party. That great constitutional scholar, Barack Obama, declared war on the Supreme Court's striking of certain provisions of the McCain/Feingold free speech destruction act in his State of the Union address. Attempts to bypass the Court's decisions have been roiling around in the Democratic ranks ever since. And now they are actually putting their free speech denial ideas before Congress.

Once again using "fair play and openness" as their theme, their attempt to shut down opposing opinion and contrary speech is ludicrously entitled "The Disclose Act." After freeing up unions (no problem) and business interests (big problem) to participate more fully in both issue and candidate campaigns, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is under direct attack by the left wing of the Democratic Party. The bill is sponsored by Representative Chris Van Hollen in the House and Charles Schumer in the Senate.

Since unions have regularly gotten away with skirting the rules on political participation under McCain/Feingold, the left's ire is aimed entirely at potential conservative views coming from beleaguered businesses being destroyed by the socialist schemes of Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats. The Supreme Court case merely leveled the playing field by freeing up political participation for unions, corporations and individuals.

The legislation was bogging down for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the moderate/conservative resurgence seen in the last couple of rounds of elections. Never hesitant to bribe whomever they could find to gain support from allegedly conservative organizations, the sponsors managed to find a way to carve out an exception for the National Rifle Association (NRA). This would supposedly convince a lot of conservative types that the legislation wasn't all that bad. But the tactic backfired--seriously.

The internet started buzzing very loudly over this obvious self-serving capitulation by the NRA. The NRA would, at least for awhile, be given working room to advance its primary issue of gun ownership without Congressional interference in exchange for supporting legislation which would curtail the free speech of other conservative organizations with issues other than gun control. The NRA decided to dance with the devil, but other major conservative organizations had no intention of paying the piper for the dance.

That misfire caused the Democratic leadership to back off on voting on the proposed legislation. The vote was scheduled to have taken place on June 19, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi pulled it off the agenda at the last minute, recognizing that support had suddenly become dangerous for many of the early proponents. The original plan of attack was to boldly argue that the bill would have required "special interests" to disclose their top donors if they run television ads or mail out information during the final phases of an election. But suddenly the news was out that one organization which had been the object of continuing attack by the left as a "special interest" had been bribed into supporting the legislation.

Here is the actual and incomprehensible wording of the critical part of the proposed act: "This bill shall require that corporations, labor organizations, tax-exempt charitable organizations, and political organizations other than political committees (covered organizations) to include specified additional information in reports on independent expenditures of at least $10,000,including certain actual or deemed transfers of money to other persons, but excluding amounts paid from separate segregated funds as well as amounts designated for specified campaign-related activities." Well, that's clear as mud.

The other key portion creates "restrictions on the use of donated funds and requires any electioneering communication transmitted through radio or television which is paid for by a political committee (including a political committee of a political party), other than a political committee which makes only electioneering communications or independent expenditures consisting of public communications, to include an audio statement identifying the name of the political committee responsible." That means nothing less than that major donors and organization leaders must be identified by name in each ad. Even a speed talker would have trouble limiting that list to a manageable time-frame.

The true underlying purpose of the legislation is to expose supporters of conservative views to harassment and intimidation by burying the organizations in reams of record keeping and reporting requirements. The same tactic was tried on a smaller scale during the early stages of the anti-Proposition 8 litigation, and even a liberal judge found such reporting to be burdensome, unnecessary, and potentially dangerous. Still, a judge's opinion is one thing, Congressional legislation quite another.

Even within the NRA, there has been hostility both toward the proposed legislation and the actions of the Association. Says Cleta Mitchell, an NRA board member, "the true purpose of the Disclose Act is to silence congressional critics in the 2010 general elections." At least a few members of the NRA leadership are not pleased being made part of a bribe at the expense of fellow conservatives.

The onerous reporting and record-keeping requirements implicitly contain threats of future regulation, penalty and negative exposure resulting in what lawyers call "a chill on free speech." The act would not forbid the activity that the Supreme Court decision allowed, it would simply make it so technically difficult for the affected organizations to participate in the political forum that they would have their speech limited through subterfuge rather than a direct attack on their freedom to speak. That's just back door defiance of the ruling in Citizens United.

22 comments:

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

A blow struck for free speech!!

Curiously, I thought the NRA understood that the right to free speech and the right to bear arms were two of the underlying pinings of freedom of the United States. The right to bear arms is useless if confiscation of arms is unreported. I guess they thought that the right to bear arms is more important.

StanH said...

I saw Wayne LaPierre answering questions in regards to the set aside in the legislation. My goodness…he was hysterical explaining the seeming coziness with progressives away. He claimed that the NRA had nothing to do with it, that in fact a liaison from the congress informed the NRA about the legislation, and they would be exempt. The NRA simply responded, “okay.” Washington weasels are protection mode, it’s our duty to fire as many progressives as possible, come November.

I must say, I haven’t been this excited about a coming election in all my life.

AndrewPrice said...

I'm glad this blew up in their faces, it should have. But I agree with Joel, it's kind of crappy that the NRA would agree to something like this just because they managed to carve out an exception for themselves.

I understand that hundreds of smaller groups lobbied against this before they even struck the NRA deal -- and even more after.

The sad thing is that I think disclosure of donors is a good thing. I think that the only "limits" on political giving should be know who is giving to politicians or sponsoring causes. But I think the draconian way the Democrats are doing this is obscene, as are their attempts to intimidate and to carve out exceptions for their friends and their ignoring the violations by their friends, etc.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk and Andrew,

You know what wouldn't make this law so bad? If they only required that the list of donors be made available upon request, not add it into the advertisement.

Tennessee Jed said...

Nice post, Hawk. Too me, free speech demands no restrictions, but I agree with you Joel - Requiring large donors to be identified "upon request" makes a lot of sense. By that same token, the opposition has to be free to run a counter ad pointing out that candidate Jane Doe is running ads paid for by . . . this or that special interest.

We make voting a right for citizens in this country without requiring an obligation on the part of the voter to educate themselves. Is it any wonder that instead of issues orientation, we get attack ads.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I agree with that. I have no problem with a law that makes lobbyists list their donors on a website and what/who you've spent money on. I would even have no problems stopping foreign money.

But beyond that, all the attempts to restrict who can spend money on politics is simply wrong. Moreover, the blatant attempts to apply these laws to some but not others disturbs me to know end. That's exactly the kind of thing the Constitution is supposed to prevent.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: The NRA has slipped occasionally recently and like AARP allowed itself to become part of the Obamacrat schemes in exchange for small and temporary favors. The NRA particularly has abandoned its slogan that "without the Second Amendment there would be no First Amendment." Apparently at the moment, some of the NRA directors don't care.

LawHawkRFD said...

Stan: I'm very disappointed in La Pierre. He (along with Charlton Heston) first got me to respect the NRA and its goals. La Pierre seems to have been in power at the NRA a bit too long. He's become what we radicals used to call "establishment." Power and influence gained for a good cause seems to devolve into "go along to get along" as that power and influence gain too much longevity.

I, too, am excited but not overly-confident about November. Momentum is great, but we have to translate it into votes. I'll be covering one facet of that on Thursday as it relates to the Democrats and their passage of socialized medicine against the public will.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

Here is something that does bother me greatly. I thought NRA was made up of people who would never give an inch. A principled bunch. Yet they are demonstrating an alarming slide into progressivism which if unchecked, would undermine their own position.

When a law is designed to apply to most but NOT all, the judge eventually WILL require the law to apply to them too or throw out the law. With most of the judges now, the likelyhood of a law being thrown out is very small, almost infinitesimal.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I'm also one of those people who believes in transparency (not the Obama-style faux transparency). As lawyers we know that sometimes the legislature can accomplish a perfectly constitutional goal by using unconstitutional means. The list of donors is not only OK, but should be mandatory. One ought not to be afraid to have his name connected to a cause which he supports. But here the legislation singles out certain types of people who must report (high-profile big donors particularly) so that their names can be bandied about. And since the list must be made part of the ad, the written list will be ten times longer than the ad. In an expensive TV ad, which must be short to be effective, the list would consume the entire useful broadcast time.

Thus, the legislation would pretend to leave the First Amendment alone while actually chilling it by placing the attention on the proponents rather than on the issue.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: I didn't see your comment before responding to Andrew's. Although I didn't say it the same way you did, that is exactly what I believe. The donors can easily be made part of the public record, but forcing the list as part of the issue or candidate ad essentially destroys the ad itself, rendering it lengthy and ineffective and as a practical matter, destroying the freedom to oppose the government.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: See my comment to Andrew and Joel. Transparency is a good thing, when it's actually used for all sides. When I see George Soros's name prominently displayed on all the left wing attack ads, I'll believe the lefties really do intend for this to apply to everyone. But as I'm sure you can guess, I'm not holding my breath waiting for that.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: You nailed the other part of the true intent of the legislation. Using subterfuge, the sponsors want to bring back unconstitutional restrictions on political speech by using nefarious means to accomplish their goal. Who can be against full disclosure? As you've surmised, it's not the goal of disclosure that's evil, it's the means of reaching it.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: We've discussed this in other posts which didn't have anything to do with the NRA. But the principle is the same. Be wary of any "one-issue" group. They may have a lofty goal and we may agree with the goal, but their single issue is only one of many which must be dealt with on a daily basis. Political freedom and the success of the republic never rise or fall on one issue alone. The Second Amendment is only one of ten pieces of the Bill of Rights. The NRA, in its zeal to protect the Second has undermined the other nine.

patti said...

today's one of those days that i'm sickened with everything that i read. this just piled on. but thanks for tackling it. we need to be informed, no matter how it just makes me want to punch someone harder.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: I know exactly how you feel. And we're going to be on this narrow ledge for another five months. But in the meantime, remember the old admonition: "Don't shoot the messenger."

patti said...

law: i would never punch the messenger, unless he asked for it...

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: Or smiled a little too broadly while delivering the message. LOL

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--You have to admit that the left has always been a bit more successful in shoving lousy legislation down people's throats by calling the bill by a name that no right-thinking person could oppose if it actually stood for what it claimed to stand for. They also tend to be better at hiding the really nasty parts way inside the bill after pronouncing rules and regulations that have already put a potential reader of the bill to sleep.

LawHawkRFD said...

HamiltonsGhost: You have your finger on an important lesson conservatives need to learn. One of the few times I've seen conservatives get it right was when it put an initiative on the ballot to stop the use of public funds and public facilities for discrimination pursuant to affirmative action. Instead of calling it "the anti-affirmative action" initiative, they called it "The California Civil Rights Initiative." Words matter. The initiative won voter approval by a wide margin.

darski said...

I remember that they tried this several years ago. They tried to make anyone who suggested anything in regards to an election as a lobbying firm and would require full time staff at a cost of ~ $100,000 a year just to fill out the papers. I was listening to jay Sekulow and Focus on the family at the time. they were doing everthing they could to stop it dead.

LawHawkRFD said...

Darski: It is amazing the lengths the left will go to in order to assure that only their own views are heard. During the campaign in 2008, the Obamacrats were actively attempting to shut down pro-Republican activity with lawsuits based on no known law or constitutional provision. This is an attempt to create a piece of legislation that will actually create a right to sue and/or prosecute. The costs of implementation will be crippling and render any conservative message nearly meaningless.

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