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AP Misses Built In DISCLOSE Act Union Exemption

Associated Press reporter David Espo wrote about the DISCLOSE Act on June 15th:

The measure requires the listing of the names of the top five donors to an organization running political ads, including unions, businesses and non-profit organizations. … In a concession negotiated over the weekend, House Democrats agreed to an exemption from the disclosure requirements for organizations that have been in existence for a decade, have at least 1 million dues-paying members and do not use any corporate or labor union money to finance their campaign-related expenditures.

This language makes it seem that the DISCLOSE Act treats union and corporation First Amendment activity equally. Nothing could be further from the truth. As eight former Federal Election Commissioners recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal:

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Disclose Act is that, while the Supreme Court overturned limits on spending by both corporations and unions, Disclose seeks to reimpose them only on corporations.

For example, while the Disclose Act prohibits any corporation with a federal contract of $50,000 or more from making independent expenditures or electioneering communications, no such prohibition applies to unions. This $50,000 trigger is so low it would exclude thousands of corporations from engaging in constitutionally protected political speech, the very core of the First Amendment. Yet public employee unions negotiate directly with the government for benefits many times the value of contracts that would trigger the corporate ban.

So while the NRA may have needed a special exemption to avoid the DISCLOSE Acts punitive reporting requirements, unions never needed an exemption because the bill was designed to exempt the from the beginning.