My Weekly Column: Kill the DISCLOSE Act

Editor’s Note: I wrote this column last week prior to the announcement of a compromise between HSUS and Ohio farm groups. More on that in this week’s column Thursday…


What do HSUS, labor unions, and the NRA have in common? If you said “not a whole lot,” you’re right on their principles, but wrong in one very key area: they all received a sweet deal from Congressional Democrats on a shadowy campaign finance bill known as the DISCLOSE Act.

Congressman John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Leader, is very concerned: “(This) misguided campaign finance bill would give the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) a special exemption to influence elections and spread its radical agenda.” More on the NRA/union connection in a moment.

As Congressman Boehner points out, HSUS is not to be confused with your local animal shelter. “HSUS is a special interest group that has been waging war on our agriculture community in recent years in an effort to impose its extreme animal rights agenda,” Boehner said.

Waging ballot battles in states ranging from Florida, Arizona, and California in recent years, and this year in both Ohio and Missouri, the organization spends the vast majority of its $120 million annual budget on lobbying and political coercion.

“Ohio’s farmers and producers work hard each day to provide for their families, and care for their livestock,” Boehner said in a recent email to his constituents. “The last thing they need while trying to fend off HSUS during difficult economic times is Washington stepping in and tilting the playing field against them.” Boehner contends that’s exactly what will happen as a result of the backroom deal Democratic leaders struck with several special interest groups, including HSUS, Labor Unions, and the NRA, to secure votes in Congress for H.R. 5175, known as the DISCLOSE Act.

Boehner argues that when it comes to campaign finance reform, sunshine is the best disinfectant. “Every dime spent on behalf of a candidate or an issue should be public, so the American people have a clear view of who is supporting what. Passing campaign finance reform granting special interest groups like HSUS special First Amendment rights not only raises serious constitutional concerns, it threatens to devastate our agriculture community and Ohio’s economy.”

While agriculture is typically a non-partisan sport, here is one of those murky times where politics gets in the way of common sense. What does the DISCLOSE Act do, exactly?

From the Alliance for Worker Freedom: “The DISCLOSE Act marks a stark departure from the traditional treatment of corporations and unions by applying punitive measures to associations in the corporate form, but not to labor unions, even though these groups have traditionally been treated similarly in campaign finance law.”


• Companies that received federal money during the financial crisis face restrictions on speech, but not unions: General Motors cannot engage in express advocacy, urging voters to support a candidate by name for example, while the United Auto Workers union can.

• Corporations, unions, non-profits and 527 groups will be required to report donors who give more than $600 if they engage in express advocacy; Average union dues, the source of the majority of their funds, in 2004 were roughly $377.

• Businesses with government contracts worth more than $7 million are not allowed to engage in express advocacy while public sector unions that receive their dues from the taxpayers are exempt from such restrictions.

• Companies where a foreign entity owns 20 percent or more of a company’s shares are not allowed to engage in express advocacy while international unions are free to tell Americans how to vote.

Groups like HSUS, the NRA, and Labor Unions received these types of special exemptions to buy their support, and in the case of the NRA, their silence. The NRA, the strongest and most effective traditional supporters of the 2nd Amendment, should be expressing concern this week over the confirmation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the United States Supreme Court due to her controversial positions on the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms. However, by selling out on the Kagan nomination, the NRA was able to exempt itself from some of the most onerous campaign finance legislation in the nation’s history.

In short, special interest groups are running Washington and this Congress more aggressively than they have at any point in history. While the House passed the DISCLOSE Act by a very narrow margin, time still exists for the Senate to apply common sense, and either kill a bill designed to restrict the free speech rights of millions of Americans, or to at least apply the bill fairly to activist organizations like Big Labor and the anti-meat terrorists at HSUS.