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Provisions of the Disclose Act

June 28, 2010

The bill is available online–now that’s it is passed, of course–and it’s not pretty. Since much of it modifies the Federal Elections Act of 1971, it is not easy to read unless you have both documents side-by-side to cross-reference. I didn’t have that, but the main outlines are clear: it is designed to silence corporations and grassroots political organizations while exempting unions, political parties and politician’s campaigns.

It was sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Maryland Democrat who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this year, and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who led the Senate Democrats’ campaign panel in 2008.

Some provisions:

  • Require all organizations who are subject to the law’s requirements to list all donors of $600 or more with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). This would include MOST 501(c)4, 501(c)5, 501(c)6, and 527 groups.
  • Organizations must post a hyperlink on their website to the FEC, where a list of the names of their donors can be accessed.
  • Every time an organization runs a campaign ad, its CEO must appear in the ad and twice state his or her name and the organization’s name, along with an “unobscured, full-screen view” of the person if it is aired on TV (p. 95)
  • The top five funders of the organization behind the ad must also have their names listed in the ad, even if they have nothing to do with the ad.
  • The most “significant” donor to the organization must list his name, rank, and organization three times in the ad. The exact format of the message is specified (p.80-85)
  • Political robo-calls are covered and regulated as to form and content. (p. 101-102)
  • Internet bloggers and activists, whose websites may be funded in part by any corporation (such as an ad), will also be subject to the same laws if they choose to take part in political speech. Traditional media outlets, such as television, newspapers and magazines are exempted from this.
  • The requirements are extended from 60 days before an election in the 1971 law to 120 days. That means to around July 2 this year.

Requiring organizations to release the names of donors and members of their organizations into a publicly searchable database maintained by the FEC makes names and addresses of donors and members publicly available, allowing them to become easy targets for any and all activists in opposition to stances these organizations may take. This was done in California to donors who supported the gay marriage ban. Then, it was an illegal act that released the names; the Democrats have now made it easy.

Even the ACLU is up in arms.
The US Chamber of Commerce sent a letter opposing the law to the House on May 27.

See Redstate for their comments; Reason states their opinion here. Our friends at the libertarian Party of Colorado state their opposition here.

You may be interest to know that the organization is exempt if it has 500,000 dues-paying members and at least one member in each state:

For purposes of this subparagraph, the term ‘State’ means each of the several States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. (p.59)

Remember the push to make Puerto Rico a state? It’s not over yet, folks.

When does this take effect? Within 30 days of its being passed “without regard to whether or not the Federal Election Commission has promulgated regulations to carry out” the new law. Good luck, FEC.

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