One of the more disingenuous aspects of the Democrats’ 2010 campaign is their claim that they’re battling the special interests by pushing the DISCLOSE Act. President Obama has a shown a pattern of being misleading on this bill and the Supreme Court case to which this bill is purportedly a reaction, but his latest false claim, in reaction to the bill’s defeat, is particularly egregious:
Wall Street, the insurance lobby, oil companies and other special interests are now one step closer to taking Congress back and returning to the days when lobbyists wrote the laws.
But this is the opposite of the truth, as Bert Gall at the Institute for Justice explains. The bill didn’t restrict companies’ ability to communicate to Congress — which is called lobbying — but it would restrict companies’ ability to communicate to the public. As I put it in a past column, Congress is upset that non-profits and companies might be going over Congress’s head.
More political speech to voters, as Citizens United would allow, could mean less of a need for lobbyists. And that would be bad for Congressmen who benefit from forcing companies who want their voices heard to run the K Street-Capitol Hill gauntlet.
Gall at IJ put it well:
The DISCLOSE Act—by imposing new and burdensome costs on free speech—would have stifled this freedom. Indeed, some of its supporters have all but admitted as much. Because incumbent politicians don’t relish the prospect of lots of ads that hurt their reelection chances, it shouldn’t surprise us that so many of them voted for DISCLOSE. They’d rather play an insiders’ political game with lobbyists who quietly go about their work than be subject to criticism in a noisy public arena they don’t control.
Thus, the argument that the DISCLOSE Act would have decreased the power of K Street to the benefit of Main Street isn’t just disingenuous—it’s exactly backwards.