The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312;


Bill Will Compromise Free Speech


Senate today and tomorrow will debate a campaign finance bill that
includes disclosure requirements that raise significant civil liberties
concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union is urging senators to vote
against the bill because those disclosure requirements are overly broad
and inconsistent and will likely infringe upon the free speech and
privacy rights of Americans.

The Democracy is Strengthened by Casting
Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) bill (H.R. 5628) includes a
provision 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
organizations to preserve the privacy of their donors. The amendment
exempts organizations that have over 500,000 members, are over 10 years
old, have a presence in all 50 states and whose revenue from
corporations and unions is less than 15 percent. By exempting larger
organizations that might tend to be more mainstream from certain
disclosure requirements, the bill inequitably suppresses only the speech
of smaller organizations that might be more controversial, and
compromises the anonymity of small donors.

The House passed its version of the DISCLOSE Act in June.

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

"Public discourse and debate is a
cornerstone of our democracy and our Constitution ensures the right of
individuals to engage in these conversations without being exposed to
unnecessary risks of harassment or embarrassment. The only way to bring
positive change to our elections is to promote reforms that respect free
speech and do not limit it. We urge the Senate to vote down this
well-intentioned but overly broad legislation."

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

"The ACLU supports the disclosure of large
contributions to candidates as long as it does not have a chilling
effect on political participation, but the DISCLOSE Act would inflict
unnecessary damage to free speech rights and does not include the proper
safeguards to protect Americans' privacy. The bill would severely
impact donor anonymity, especially those donors who give to smaller and
more controversial organizations."

A copy of a letter from the ACLU to the Senate on the DISCLOSE Act is available at:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666