Newspaper column: Rosen’s DISCLOSE Act really CHILL Act

Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is seeking Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s seat in the November election, has come out strongly in support of a bill that would require disclosure of donors to groups seeking to influence political issues and campaigns.

Rosen announced that she is a co-sponsor of the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act of 2018. She touted the bill using the latest Democratic hot button — the alleged use of foreign money to influence elections.

“Foreign money and influence have no place in American democracy,” Rosen proclaimed in a press release. “This legislation will help restore people’s trust in our democracy by shining light on dark money spending influencing our federal elections. Congress needs to step up and reform our broken campaign finance system, and I will keep fighting for measures that protect the integrity of our elections.”

The DISCLOSE Act has been backed by both Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and her predecessor Harry Reid. In 2010, Heller voted against the DISCLOSE Act and in 2012 he missed the vote while campaigning.

One of the chief sponsors of the bill, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, recently declared, “The American people should control our democracy, not special interests. Since the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, corporations and a small group of wealthy donors have smothered our democracy with sophisticated influence campaigns. Attack ads from their dark money groups flash on our screens with no way to know who’s behind them. And the same loopholes Citizens United opened for those special interests are available to the likes of Vladimir Putin or other foreign actors looking to undermine American democracy.”

But the bill, which has been stalled in Congress for years, would do far more than require disclosure of foreign cash.

It would mandate any group spending more than $10,000 on political ads to file a report within 24 hours with the Federal Election Commission and reveal the names of those who donate more than $10,000.

The Citizens United ruling in 2010 overturned a part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that prohibited corporations and unions from spending money on “electioneering communication” 30 days before a primary or 60 days prior to a general election. Specifically, the law prevented the private group Citizens United from showing a video called “Hillary: The Movie.”

Though the ruling barred the censorship of electioneering communication, it did not go so far as to allow anonymous spending, thus leaving the door open for Congress to require spending reporting.

But in a dissent to this aspect of Citizens United, Justice Clarence Thomas took issue, saying the disclosure, disclaimer, and reporting requirements in McCain-Feingold were also unconstitutional.

“Congress may not abridge the ‘right to anonymous speech’ based on the ‘simple interest in providing voters with additional relevant information’ … In continuing to hold otherwise, the Court misapprehends the import of ‘recent events’ that some amici describe ‘in which donors to certain causes were blacklisted, threatened, or otherwise targeted for retaliation.’”

Thomas was referring to the 2008 California ballot initiative that attempted to prohibit same-sex marriage, noting that many supporters suffered property damage, and threats of physical violence or death. He wrote that requiring disclosure would chill protected speech.

“I cannot endorse a view of the First Amendment that subjects citizens of this Nation to death threats, ruined careers, damaged or defaced property, or pre-emptive and threatening warning letters as the price for engaging in ‘core political speech, the “primary object of First Amendment protection,’” Thomas concluded.

Then there is the 1959 case in which the Supreme Court held that Alabama could not require the discloser of the names of donors or members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People because such disclosure had resulted in “economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility.”

There was a reason Paine and Locke and Montesquieu wrote anonymously — lest they be hanged. There was a reason the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers were penned anonymously. There was a reason why Thomas Jefferson was an anonymous backer of Philip Freneau’s National Gazette, which savaged President Washington while Jefferson was in his cabinet.

Perhaps, instead of calling it the DISCLOSE Act, they should call it the CHILL Act — Citizen Harassment Initiative to Limit Locution.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

6 comments on “Newspaper column: Rosen’s DISCLOSE Act really CHILL Act

  1. Bill says:

    Once again, you have stated the case cogently. It seems that these days we must b even more vigilant in protecting speech since it appears to be increasingly under attack from the Left, who once was it’s champion.

  2. I defy you to find single newspaper editorial cartoon supporting Citizens United, even though big corporations own newspapers, which could be silenced without Citizens United.

  3. Steve says:

    That is because both sides benefit from it.
    House Democrats have no interest in actually passing that bill, all they want to do is crow about “supporting” it so their base will love them to death with money and votes.

    Kinda like Rosen saying how rotten to the core Republicans are in that commercial and then claims how she will work with both sides just few seconds after the insult fest.
    And in every one of her commercials, she is the star and it is all her voice, she states she “approved this message”…. so she approves of herself!

    What an idiot.

  4. Bill says:

    The big corporations that own newspapers have the means and platform to express their views. They do not necessarily want any others to have the means to express other views. Citizens United provided the means by which those views could be expressed.

  5. Rincon says:

    One must be allowed to BOTH spend over $10,000 AND be anonymous too? If someone wants to donate anonymously, they can. Just make it less than $10,000.00 – and your wife, parents, your kids, etc. can also each donate $9,999. I doubt if the law preclude this sort of informal arrangement.

    How much speaking power should one person have and still be protected by a cloak of anonymity? I know. No limits. Just like some poker games. Winner take all, with the same results. I’ve already seen how the rich dominate our politics. Art Pope has already hijacked the government of North Carolina. He didn’t even have to spend a billion dollars. A very cheap price for controlling a state.

    Stay tuned. More states to come.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Apparently, and this is one of the biggest problems I have with libertarians, they value an individuals freedom so much, that they would advocate for the corruption of the very systems that most protect those freedoms.

    It’s truly ironic that the first amendment is going to be the tool used to destroy the constitutional republic that exists in this country and as far as I can see, to the applause of many of those who post here so regularly that take a conservative perspective on things.

    I cannot support that.

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