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The cynical decision this week by House Democrats to exempt the National Rifle Association from the latest campaign finance regulatory scheme is itself a public disclosure. It reveals the true purpose of the perversely named Disclose Act (H.R. 5175): namely, to silence congressional critics in the 2010 elections.
Congress can't help itself. Since 1798, with the Alien and Sedition Acts, incumbent politicians have yearned for legal duct tape for their opponents' mouths. The Disclose Act is a doozy of a muzzle.
Receiving less attention than the NRA "carve-out" but no less cynical is the bill's sop to organized labor: Aggregate contributions of $600 or more would be disclosed. Why start at $600? Why not $200 or, say, $500? Because most union members' dues aggregate less than $600 in a calendar year and thus members' contributions to labor's campaign-related spending wouldn't need to be disclosed . . . even to the union members whose dues are spent for political purposes.
This is not just "disclosure." It is a scheme hatched by political insiders to eradicate disfavored speech. There is no room under the First Amendment for Congress to make deals on political speech, whether with the NRA or anyone else.