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AOI Opposes Federal DISCLOSE Act

June 29, 2010

Business opposition appears to have derailed measure
Article by: J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largest business advocate

AOI sent a letter to the Oregon Congressional Delegation in opposition to HR 5175, the so-called DISCLOSE Act, which aims to limit the ability of business groups to spend on federal elections. AOI also joined with the United States Chamber of Commerce and hundreds of other business organizations across the country in signing an industry letter in opposition to the measure.

HR 5175 severely limits the ability of business groups to spend on federal elections while giving preferential treatment to unions.

For example, the bill prohibits political speech by companies with government contracts. However, the provisions of the DISCLOSE Act affecting government contractors do not apply equally to unions in collective bargaining agreements with the government, unions who receive dues from government payroll deductions or grant recipients.

HR 5175 also forces U.S. companies to determine the nationality of every shareholder to determine if more than 20% of the company’s shareholders are foreign nationals. Under the penalty of perjury, a company must undergo this certification process and must forfeit its political free speech rights if there is more than 20% foreign ownership. In the meantime, the unions are free to spend unlimited amounts on political speech without regard to any certification process and without regard to whether those dues are derived by non-citizens.

In yet another bizarre provision, political advertisements paid for by business groups must contain a disclaimer by the five largest contributors to the organization. A 30-second TV spot paid by business groups would have to contain over 15 seconds of individual disclaimers by five separate contributors. No such restrictions would be placed on union-purchased advertisements.

While the DISCLOSE Act seeks to drastically limit the ability of business organizations to spend on federal elections, no such limitations are placed on unions under the act. Many capitol observers note that the legislation appears to be a last-ditch effort by some members of Congress to give them every possible advantage with a very tough election season predicted for incumbent legislators.

To date, the fierce opposition from business groups has derailed the legislation, although a vote in the House appears imminent. The real fight will be in the Senate, where 60-votes are needed in order to break any potential filibuster.

You can read the AOI opposition letter sent to the Oregon congressional delegation here. In an odd twist, AOI was joined by non-traditional business allies, such as the ACLU, and other groups concerned about the curtailing of free speech rights for individual groups. AOI will continue to watch this legislation and actively oppose it.

  
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