Let’s start with how Congress can deliberately mangle the language by coming up with cute acronyms for the bills they write. Case in point: the DISCLOSE Act, or Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending In Elections Act. Technically, wouldn’t it be the DISBYCLOSIE Act? But, I digress. This goofy piece of legislation was thankfully filibustered in the Senate by Republicans. The story of gaining support for Senate passage is almost as convoluted as the passage of Obamacare with its hand-outs to individual Senators to secure their votes for that monstrosity. It is as odd as the financial regulation reform bill passed that requires affirmative action in hiring minorities and women in Wall Street firms as if the color or sex of Wall Street traders and officials led to the financial crisis. It gives one pause before they attempt to tackle immigration reform. That should be interesting to watch and I can’t wait for the acronym to evolve from that nonsense. If its anything like the past, it should be the FORGO Act for the Federal Government Foregoes Enforcement of Immigration Laws Act.
The proposed law that passed the House but failed in the Senate would have done several things. First, it would have required the identity of large donors to be disclosed and their names revealed in advertisements within 90 days of an election. It would have banned foreign corporations from engaging in political ads and “foreign corporation” would be any company with greater than 20% control. Government contractors with more than $10 million in contracts would be prohibited, as would any TARP recipient. Non-profit groups meeting certain criteria (more than 500,000 on their donor lists, in existence for more than ten years, members in all 50 states) would be exempt. “Large” donors would be those who donated more than $600 to the cause.
All of this garbage is in reaction to the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United. Of course, we all remember the great constitutional scholar, Barack Obama, taking on the Court face-to-face during his State of the Union address. That low point- and there are many in this Administration- signaled the fight as a beaming Chuck Schumer cheered on the catcalls against Roberts and company. Thomas had it right by avoiding these addresses. Again, I digress. What upsets the liberals the most is that the decision potentially shifted the balance of power in campaign contributions away from the liberal dominated special interest groups and labor unions by allowing conservative special interest groups and business the opportunity to argue their case on an equal basis. Ironically, by crying foul, they twist the very notion the Court stepped into correct- an equal voice in political discourse- by asserting that democracy will be turned on its head and a new era of Tammany Hall type electioneering will be ushered in.
But a funny thing happened along the way. First, the bill’s primary sponsor in the House is Chris Van Hollen. This is the same man charged with making sure Democrats retain control of the House this year. When the bill reached the Senate, the chances of passage were looking slim. Hence, the great carve out for the NRA was conceived exempting specifically them from complying with this law. As a result, they then took a neutral stance on the issue and suprisingly started to put out grumblings that they were supporting Harry Reid in his re-election bid in Nevada. If this does not smack of a special deal and “sleeping with the enemy,” nothing will. So we have the first switching of partners in this perverted square dance that defines this Congress. The NRA, through their silence on the issue, implicitly endorses the DISCLOSE Act and sides with Van Hollen, Reid and the Democrats.
But it gets even better because groups that traditionally side with the Democrats- the ACLU, the Sierra Club, and PIRG among others- throw their weight behind defeating this bill. Their reasons are varied. For example, the Sierra Club wants their piece of the carve out and do a “nanny nanny boo boo” at the NRA. PIRG and the ACLU stand against the bill because of the carve out and, in Stuart Smiley mode “dog gone it,” just think the law is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights. Hence, the conservative group switches off to support the liberals while the liberal groups switch off to support the conservatives.
True to form, the President stands in the Rose Garden and notes that the bill is not perfect (something we hear from him often when it comes to legislation), but throws his support behind an imperfect bill. he does not mention that the bill is probably unconstitutional. He also does not mention that the bill’s sole design and purpose is to place onerous reporting requirements on corporations while prohibiting large swaths of the economy from even participating although they have a stake in what happens in Washington. Of course, they could just by pass the political process and donate to the proposed Charles Rangel Center at the CCNY, a subject Obama is surprisingly quiet on. Geez…again, I digress. Simply put, this was a bill designed to stifle the political speech of a constituency that traditionally does not necessarily support Democrats. This is why, incidentally, organized labor supports the bill because the rules concerning them basically stay the same- rules they have learned to manipulate to an art in elections with money not necessarily voluntarily donated by the rank and file.
We also have the weird assertion from Nancy Pelosi after Republicans filibustered the bill in the Senate. In her statement, she noted that the bill had bipartisan support in the House. As a reminder to Ms. Pelosi, two Republican Congressmen- Mike Castle of Delaware and Anh Cao of Louisiana- voted for the DISCLOSE Act in the House. As a further reminder to Ms. Pelosi, two Republicans in support of the DISCLOSE Act does not bipartisan support make. If so, then all those Democrats who voted against Obamacare illustrates bipartisan opposition to that law, using Pelosi logic, admittedly distorted in the first place.
Finally, Harry Reid, realizing he lacked the votes to invoke cloture, had to vote against the bill to reserve the right to re-introduce the measure in the future. Which he will. He will do so after the August recess, most likely in late September or October rigt before the November elections and then use Republican opposition to portary them as being on the side of big corporations and their attempt to drown out the voices of the common man of whom the Democrats are allegedly the champion. In fact, White House political hacks are already licking their chops at this class warfare tactic because they excel in this area.
The bottom line is that the entire episode and the entire process is not an attempt to gain bipartisan support for an law. It is more akin to a perverted Washington legislative square dance where traditional partners are thrust to dance with the opposing partners in an effort to get just enough votes to pass the law. Like everything else this Congress does under the “leadership” of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, this entire episode is a disgraceful display of politics. It is also more evidence that the Democrats need to be voted out of power in the House and although it may not be possible to win the Senate, weakening the Democratic hold there and voting Reid out of office is more desireable than passing something like the DISCLOSE Act.