While debating the DISCLOSE Act last night on the Senate floor, New York Senator Chuck Schumer called for restrictions on the First Amendment, citing other laws and regulations already in place in the United States that do so.
I believe there ought to be limits because the First Amendment is not absolute. No amendment is absolute. You can’t scream ‘fire’ falsely in a crowded theater. We have libel laws. We have anti-pornography laws. All of those are limits on the First Amendment. Well, what could be more important than the wellspring of our democracy? And certain limits on First Amendment rights that if left unfettered, destroy the equality — any semblance of equality in our democracy — of course would be allowed by the Constitution. And the new theorists on the Supreme Court who don’t believe that, I am not sure where their motivation comes from, but they are just so wrong. They are just so wrong.
The DISCLOSE Act was somewhat of a McCain-Feingold 2.0 and is the Democratic response to the Citizens United ruling which allows people to use corporations and unions as avenues to advance their own free speech. This time though, not even McCain voted for the bill, that's how bad it was. It failed 53-45 and the vote was along party lines.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), would force unions, nonprofits and corporate interest groups that spend $10,000 or more during an election cycle to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more. Whitehouse’s version no longer required sponsors of electioneering ads to have a disclaimer at the end and pushed the effective date to 2013.
“When somebody is spending the kind of money that is being spent, a single donor making, for instance, a $4 million anonymous contribution, they're not doing that out of the goodness of their heart,” Whitehouse said on the floor.
Prior to the vote, Democrats called upon Republicans who have previously spoken in favor of greater transparency and campaign finance reform to vote “yes” on the bill today. Those targeted Republican senators such as Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), all voted against the DISCLOSE Act both times.