By Richard Olivastro
Is democracy strengthened by casting light on spending in elections?
At first level of thought, one would think so.
In fact, that very question (with a wee bit of word rearrangement) defines the acronym “DISCLOSE” used with H.R. 5175: the “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections” Act.
For those of us willing to confess guilt of, at least sometimes, being impressed with the brilliance of our own shallow thinking, the “DISCLOSE” acronym may still be sufficient to lull us asleep to what actually lies under the cover of this latest attempt by federal politicians to constrain citizen participation and squelch freedom of speech.
The truth is “DISCLOSE” is a blatant attempt to manipulate the national electoral process.
Introduced by Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the U. S. House Committee releasing the legislation stated “that Article 1, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the authority to make laws governing the time, place and manner of holding Federal elections.” But, given the First Amendment protection of free speech the vast majority of America’s Citizens would likely find this citation for what it is: specious.
Obviously, the founders use of “time, place and manner” in the U. S. Constitution refers to ‘when, where and how’. Since ‘when’ means calendar/clock, and ‘place’ is geographic, it appears that party leaders concluded that “manner” was the only word-field fertile with the possibility of pulling off this latest attempt at political manipulation.
So, that is where Van Hollen planted H.R. 1575’s bad seeds.
How would passage of “DISCLOSE” actually perpetrate electoral ‘sleight of hand”?
Here’s a overview:
H.R. 5175 would actually shield election activities and financial support coming from those special-interest groups and entities politically aligned and involved with aggressive-progressives incumbent in Washington. H.R. 5175 would cloak those groups by selectively exempting them from the very reporting requirements and prohibitions that would be imposed on all other individuals and groups including: you or other single citizens, legitimate non-profit groups and organizations, U. S. businesses and others.
If passed, H.R. 5175 chills the American electoral process by ‘icing’ all types of free speech. It is designed to use fear, intimidation and, even the old standby, government controlled bureaucracy to limit speech and participation.
Here’s an example of the how the federal government wants to use regulatory detail to control political and public policy advertising.
H. R. 5175 would require the head of an organization “to appear in the ad, state their name and their organization two times. Additionally, the top five funders of the organization must be listed in the ad (and top two for radio), and if there is a top “significant” funder, he or she must identify himself or herself, his or her title, and state the name of the organization three times in the ad.
For example, let’s consider how an advocacy ad by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – whose admirable mission in the United States is to “help improve public education” – would be affected by the mandatory content required by H.R. 1575.
Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes, who must be in the ad, might be seen or heard first, personally saying, “I’m Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The purpose for this ad is to advocate for your support of our mission is improve public education by…”.
Next, Bill Gates appears saying, “I’m Bill Gates, as one of the top five donors to the Foundation, I’m required to be listed in this ad. But, because the audio of this ad could be used on radio, I thought it best to appear in this video version so my voice fulfills the government requirement for the radio ad.”
Ironically, Warren Buffett – who turned over vast sums of his wealth to the Gates Foundation – as a top significant “funder”, must also appear, identify himself, state his title; and, as the biggest funder, state the name of the organization – not once, not twice – but three times in the ad.”
Then, Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes would reappear, and have to repeat “I’m Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation” because DISCLOSE says the CEO must do so two times.
Yes, those are the requirements.
Curiously, such requirements would almost double the time required to “do” such ads on television and radio as specified individuals must redundantly identify themselves, their title, role, etc.
Of course, longer ad run-times might increase media revenue if the number of political and policy ads were to remain the same?
And, maybe the left-stream media will craft their own industry stimulus package and lobby the administration for legislation directing that every entity must buy ads just like every person must buy health care insurance or pay a fine?
Okay, you want me to get back to being serious?
Perhaps, I have been serious all along.
No matter how one slices it, the tedious and onerous requirements in H. R. 1575 brings to mind the adage that “the devil lies in the details”.
At best, HR-1575 seems designed to compress the time in ads for the core advocacy message.
At worst, “DISCLOSE” is designed to deter individual citizens and organizations from speaking out and getting involved in elections.
That’s serious. Very Serious.
Consider the Founder’s wisdom inserting those ‘Guardian Angel’ words in the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Richard Olivastro is president of Olivastro Communications, a professional member of the National Speakers Association, and founder of Citizens For Change (www.CFC.us). He can be reached via email: RichOlivastro@gmail.com ; telephone: 877.RichSpeaks.Checkout his blog: www.richardolivastro.com/blog