The Constitution's First Amendment says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (emphasis added)
Back in January 2010, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to “reject corporate spending limit” in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, according to the New York Times on January 21, which wrote:
“Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.
“The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.
In response, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) introduced the DISCLOSE (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections) Act. ("all information" of the Senate version of the bill is here although the House version contained a few differences). John Samples, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Representative Government analyzes the legislation in Policy Analysis No. 664. Here’s the executive summary of the Policy Analysis:
“The United States Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that Congress may not prohibit spending on political speech by corporations. President Obama and several members of Congress have sharply criticized Citizens United, and Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen have proposed the DISCLOSE Act in response to the ruling. DISCLOSE mandates disclosure of corporate sources of independent spending on speech, putatively in the interest of shareholders and voters. However, it is unlikely that either shareholders or voters would be made better off by this legislation. Shareholders could demand and receive such disclosure without government mandates, given the efficiency of capital markets. The benefits of such disclosure for voters are likely less than assumed, while the costs are paid in chilled speech and in less rational public deliberation. DISCLOSE also prohibits speech by government contractors, TARP recipients, and companies managed by foreign nationals. The case for prohibiting speech by each of these groups seems flawed. In general, DISCLOSE exploits loopholes in Citizens United limits on government control of speech to contravene the spirit of that decision and the letter of the First Amendment.”
Liberal columnist Eleanor Clift wrote in yesterday’s Newsweek:
There wasn’t any real suspense about how the Senate would vote today on a bill known as the Disclose Act, which would require a corporate or union sponsor of a campaign ad to physically appear in it so the public knows where the backing is coming from. Without a single Republican stepping forward to support the legislation and not all Democrats certain to vote for it, the expectation was that the Senate would fall short of the 60 votes needed to break a Republican filibuster, and indeed they did, with the final tally 57 votes.”
[ . . . ]
“The Disclose Act passed the House last month 219 to 206, with just two Republicans voting for it (Rep. Anh Cao of Louisiana, a Vietnamese immigrant who on occasion votes with the Democrats; and Rep. Michael Castle of Delaware, who is running for the Senate, and presumably wants to cast a wider net than a straight-down-the-line Republican). Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen led the fight in the House and in order to secure the necessary votes made some awkward compromises, notably an exemption that allows large special-interest groups an exemption from the sunshine provision if they meet certain criteria. Those criteria—more than a million members, in existence for at least a decade, and with funding of less than 15 percent from corporations—turned out to be conveniently tailored for the National Rifle Association.”
Both of Virginia’s senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, voted in favor of cloture, according to the Roll Call vote 220. In their reporting on the vote, The Hill newspaper wrote, “The three Republican centrists considered most likely to support the bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), all voted against it.” In addition, Hot Air reports that Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif) would have voted against the bill if it had passed the cloture procedure.
In their reporting today, the Washington Post wrote that “the legislation attracted opposition from a strange-bedfellows group including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Civil Liberties Union and the AFL-CIO, which said it "reluctantly" opposed the legislation after Schumer removed an exemption benefiting unions. An exemption for the National Rifle Association irritated many Democrats and liberal groups but had no apparent impact on Tuesday's vote.
Finally, Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement saying that Senate Republicans were “obstructing progress” by protecting “the special interests.” However, at the Heritage Foundation’s blog, The Foundry, Hans von Spakkovsky reminds us “there are no permanent victories in politics . . . Protectors of free speech rights obviously must remain vigilant as the Senate session continuesD.
Didn't our two Virginia Senators pledge to uphold the Constitution, but can't read, or are they so arrogant as to think they can ignore the Constitution? Just asking!