Editorial: Democratic House bill is a naked power grab

With Democrats firmly ensconced in power in the House of Representatives, the first order of business is, of course, to hold onto that power in perpetuity.

The 600-page H.R. 1, dubiously dubbed “For the People Act,” wrests voting law decisions from the states and shreds the First Amendment right of free speech. It is co-sponsored by all three of Nevada’s Democratic representatives — Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford.

The bill would require automatic voter registration, online voter registration and registration on Election Day, allow felons to vote, require 15 days of early voting, end the automatic purging of voters from registration lists when they don’t vote or fail to respond to mailed inquiries, dole out a 600 percent government match for certain “small” political donations and make Election Day a holiday — all of which erode the integrity of the ballot.

H.R. 1 also seeks to curb the free speech protections for corporations, unions and other groups upheld by the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC by requiring increased disclosure of donors and online advertisers. 

In what is an embarrassing ignorance of history the bill declares, “The Supreme Court’s misinterpretation of the Constitution to empower monied interests at the expense of the American people in elections has seriously eroded over 100 years of congressional action to promote fairness and protect elections from the toxic influence of money.”

The very first such congressional action mentioned is the Tillman Act of 1907 that prohibited corporations from making contributions in connection with federal elections.

Lest we forget, the sponsor of the legislation was none other than Democratic Sen. Benjamin “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman of South Carolina — the leader of a Ku Klux Klan-style lynch mob known as the “Red Shirts,” a man who declared, “The Negro must remain subordinated or be exterminated” in order to “keep the white race at the top of the heap.”

The sole purpose of Tillman’s bill was to gag northern corporations who hired blacks and tended to favor Republicans.

Also, as Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his dissent in Citizens United, disclosure requirements have spawned a cottage industry that uses donor information to intimidate, retaliate, threaten and boycott individuals and businesses with whom they disagree. 

Thomas wrote, “The disclosure, disclaimer, and reporting requirements in (the law) are also unconstitutional. … Congress may not abridge the ‘right to anonymous speech’ based on the ‘simple interest in providing voters with additional relevant information …’”

The Founders frequently engaged in anonymous speech and protected it with the First Amendment. The Federalist Papers were penned under pseudonyms.

In addition to Nevada’s Democratic House delegates, the state’s two Democratic senators — Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen — have both railed against the free speech funded by what they pejoratively call “unaccountable dark money.”

Nevada Rep. Lee called H.R. 1 “a sweeping package of pro-democracy, and anti-corruption reforms that will put electoral power back in the hands of the American people. H.R. 1 will curb the influence of big money in politics, make it easier, not harder for Americans to practice their fundamental right to vote, and ensure that politicians actually serve the public — not special interest groups.” Special interest groups like the Democratic Party?

While the House is likely to pass this legislative and constitutional abomination, its chances in the Republican-controlled Senate are slim. 

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky rightly stated in an op-ed in The Washington Post, “They’re trying to clothe this power grab with cliches about ‘restoring democracy’ and doing it ‘For the People,’ but their proposal is simply a naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party. It should be called the Democrat Politician Protection Act.” 

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.