DISCLOSE ACT Passed By House Today Compromises Free Speech

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

DISCLOSE ACT Passed By House Today Compromises Free Speech

WASHINGTON - The House today passed a campaign finance bill
that includes disclosure requirements which raise concerns regarding the
right to privacy and speech. 

The Democracy is
Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) bill
(H.R. 5175) includes an amendment obligating many advocacy organizations
that wish to speak out on candidates and, in certain situations,
political issues, to release the identities of many of their donors,
while allowing a few large mainstream organizations to preserve the
privacy of their donors. The amendment exempts organizations that have
over 500,000 members, are over ten years old, have a presence in all 50
states and whose revenue from corporations and unions is less than 15
percent. By exempting larger mainstream organizations from certain
disclosure requirements, the bill inequitably suppresses only the speech
of smaller, more controversial organizations and compromises the
anonymity of small donors.

While the American Civil Liberties Union supports the disclosure of
large contributions to candidates as long as the disclosure does not
have a chilling effect on political participation, the DISCLOSE Act
fails to improve the integrity of political campaigns in any substantial
way while significantly harming the speech and associational rights of
Americans. 

The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, ACLU Chief
Legislative and Policy Counsel:

"The ACLU welcomes reforms that improve our democratic elections by
improving the information available to voters. While some elements of
the DISCLOSE Act move in that direction, the system is not strengthened
by chilling free speech and invading the privacy of modest donors to
controversial causes.

"The DISCLOSE Act would
wipe away donor anonymity - most notably, that of small donors to
smaller and more controversial organizations, even when those donors
have nothing to do with that organization's political speech. It would
also restrict speech rights in an arbitrary manner, favoring one type of
organization over another. While this bill may have been intended to
shine a light on the core funders of political advertising, it goes far
beyond that goal."

The following can be
attributed to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington
Legislative Office:

"Our Constitution embraces public discussion of matters that are
important to our nation's future, and it respects the right of
individuals to support those conversations without being exposed to
unnecessary risks of harassment or embarrassment. Only reforms that
promote speech, rather than limit it, and apply evenhandedly, rather
than selectively, will bring positive change to our elections."

A copy of the ACLU's letter to the House on the DISCLOSE Act is
available at: www.aclu.org/free-speech/aclu-letter-house-urging-no-vote-disclose-act

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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