July 27th, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson today praised Senate Republicans for blocking the DISCLOSE Act that Wilson said "is nothing more than Barack Obama's political speech gag order to silence dissent in an election year."
"The so-called DISCLOSE Act imposes arduous regulations on corporations and non-profits and is explicitly designed to intimidate dissent, all in violation of the First Amendment. Senate Republicans deserve the praise of all freedom-loving Americans who believe that free, unrestricted political speech is a basic and fundamental right under the Constitution," said Wilson.
"This is intended to intimidate certain groups and individuals from saying anything at all and into giving up their First Amendment rights. It's a cynical gag order," Wilson said.
The final vote in the Senate was 57 to 41.
The Act's disclosure requirements includes any expenditures in excess of $10,000 of express advocacy for or against a candidate up to 20 days before an election and in excess of $1,000 within 20 days before an election, which must be reported to the FEC within 24 hours. The disclosure requirements extend to 120 days prior to the first presidential primary or caucus, and 90 days before the first Congressional primary or caucus, and extend through general election day.
Anyone who invests or donates in excess of the specified minimums to a company or organization that engages in express advocacy of a candidate, except for media organizations and other exempt entities, would have their names submitted to the FEC.
"These disclosure requirements have a chilling effect on speech, which is why they previously have been found to be unconstitutional," Wilson said. "If these sorts of requirements were in place during the ratification of the Constitution, there wouldn't have been Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, which were published under pseudonyms."
"There is no question that individuals' speech is stifled by excessive disclosure requirements on independent expenditures," Wilson said, pointing to Supreme Court precedent protecting anonymous donations made to groups that solely make independent expenditures in NAACP v. Alabama (1958). Then Justice John Marshall Harlan's majority opinion stated, applying the First Amendment via the Fourteenth to Alabama, "We hold that the immunity from state scrutiny of membership lists which the Association claims on behalf of its members is here so related to the right of the members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in so doing as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment."
"The sole intent of authors of this legislation is to shame and intimidate certain corporations, groups, and individuals from saying anything about elections, and there is no question that it was unconstitutional," Wilson concluded.