U.S. House: Members Urged to Vote for DISCLOSE Act by Reform Groups

CLC Staff
May 27, 2010
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On the eve of a possible floor vote on the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175), reform groups today urged House Members to support the legislation introduced by Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Mike Castle (R-DE). The legislation was crafted in the wake of the Supreme Court's controversial decision in Citizens United v FEC which opened the door for corporations and unions to spend their treasury funds in federal elections. The bill would require timely and effective disclosure of their campaign-related expenditures and the funding behind those activities.

The Campaign Legal Center, joined with Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and Public Citizen in asking Members to vote for the Van Hollen-Castle legislation.

The full letter follows below:

 

May 27, 2010

 

Dear Representative,

 

Our organizations urge you to vote for the Van Hollen-Castle legislation to require timely and effective disclosure by corporations, labor unions, trade associations and non-profit advocacy groups of their campaign-related expenditures and the funders of these expenditures.

The organizations include the Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and Public Citizen.

This critical bipartisan disclosure legislation is fair and equitable, and applies in the same manner to the groups covered by the bill.

The Van Hollen-Castle bill follows the recent 5 to 4 decision by the Supreme Court in Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission . The decision ignored two decades of past Supreme Court decisions to strike down a law in existence for more than 60 years that banned spending of corporate treasury funds to influence federal elections. The decision also had the practical effect of striking down the similar ban on labor union spending in federal elections.

The Court's overreaching and indefensible judicial activism in Citizens United was contrary to the positions taken by past Presidents, past Congresses and the Supreme Court over the last 20 years, all of whom concluded that the corporate spending ban was necessary to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.

At the same time, the Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision, by an 8 to 1 vote, made very clear that it is constitutional and appropriate to require the disclosure of corporate and labor union spending to influence federal elections.

The Supreme Court stated in Citizens United that disclosure and disclaimer requirements "do not prevent anyone from speaking," and disclosure "permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way."

The Court further stated:

"With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters. Shareholders can determine whether their corporation's political speech advances the corporation's interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are "'in the pocket' of so-called moneyed interests." 540 U. S., at 259 (opinion of SCALIA, J.); see MCFL, supra, at 261. The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages."

Congress must move quickly to enact this legislation in order to make it effective for the 2010 elections.

We urge you to vote for the Van Hollen-Castle legislation and to oppose any efforts to undermine or weaken the provisions in the legislation.

 

Campaign Legal Center

League of Women Voters

Democracy 21

Public Citizen

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