House Passes Disclose Act Bill That Would Place Heavy Restrictions on Pro-Life Organizations

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation that pro-life groups oppose because it would place significant limits and restrictions on their ability to communicate with the public about legislation and political candidates. Lawmakers approved the DISCLOSE Act 219-206 that had the support of most Democrats and drew opposition from almost every Republican.

The bill is a response to the Supreme Court’s decision striking down some of the unconstitutional provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill that limited free speech and received strong opposition from pro-life groups and most pro-life lawmakers in Congress.

The biggest problems are that it would require pro-life groups to disclose donors’ names and require them to restrict 501(c)4 activities that allow them to educate their members and the public about legislative and election issues.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where pro-life groups hope Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be able to keep the GOP caucus together, perhaps with the help of a Democrat or two, in support of a filibuster against the legislation. Should the Senate approve and President Barack Obama sign the DISCLOSE Act, it could hamper the efforts of pro-life groups to raise and spend money educating the public about the voting records and stances of elected officials and candidates for Congress.

The National Right to Life Committee helped lead the way in opposition to the bill, which it calls “a blatant political attack on the First Amendment rights of NRLC, our state affiliates, and our members and donors.” The so-called “NRA carve out,” a revision agreed to by the House Democratic Leadership “is not only worthless, but adds insult to injury,” and would not apply to NRLC or to any of NRLC’s 50 state affiliates, the pro-life group explains.

“This is not about informing the public,” said Douglas Johnson,the NRLC’s legislative director. “This is about deterring communication about those who hold or seek federal office.

While a handful of conservative Democrats and members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted against the bill, just two Republicans — Reps. Mike Castle of Delaware and Joseph Cao of Louisiana — voted for it.

In the Senate, the bill may face a rocky future as even some Democrats are concerned about the exemptions carved out in the bill for the NRA and other groups and even moderate Republicans like Scott Brown of Massachusetts suggest they may not join Democrats in supporting the bill.

“To do any type of campaign finance reform before an election cycle to gain some type of strategic advantage is inappropriate,” Brown told The Hill. “There has been no evidence that any corporation is going to try to influence any elections. It’s being done strictly for a tactical advantage, and that’s not right.”

And pro-abortion Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine says she is leaning no as well.

Pro-life groups will rely on their no votes and capturing others like Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat.

Source: LifeNews, June 25, 2010

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