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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"DISCLOSE Act" Muzzles Small Business

This afternoon, the U.S. Senate will vote on the “motion to proceed” on S. 3628, the “Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in the Elections Act” (DISCLOSE ACT). We are hearing that supporters do not have enough votes to continue debate on the legislation. This is a good thing as the legislation will muzzle the voice of the small business community.

The DISCLOSE Act is unconstitutional, discriminatory, onerous and politically motivated. It protects the free speech rights of certain groups – like labor unions and other organizations that will provide incumbents with political cover for the upcoming elections -- while clamping down on small business associations and our allies in the broader business community.

SBE Council sent a KEY VOTE letter to every member of the U.S. Senate on July 26 to let them know that we will count the “DISCLOSE Act” as a vote against the interest of small business owners in our forthcoming Ratings of Congress.

As SBE Council noted in the KEY VOTE notice:

“Indeed, the intent of S. 3628 is to stop American businesses and the voluntary associations that represent so many parts of the business community from weighing in on issues of importance leading up to elections. Why exactly is Congress looking to limit the speech of entrepreneurs and small businesses? Meanwhile, the free speech rights of labor unions and select others are effectively left intact.

For example, blanket restrictions on election-related speech, such as independent expenditures, would be placed on government contractors, but effectively not unions under government contract. In addition, the act’s ban on political speech by so-called “foreign-controlled domestic corporations” reaches to businesses with domestic ownership levels reaching 80 percent. Again, there is no application of foreign membership or control levels for labor unions.

Of course, all of this flies directly in the face of the kind of speech most clearly and fully protected under the First Amendment, i.e., speech related to politics, elections and policy. The U.S. Supreme Court has been clear in its decisions that such speech warrants protection, and any differential treatment of speakers based on identity or content violates the First Amendment.

Make no mistake, the effect of the DISCLOSE Act would be to limit views and opinions from the business community, while protecting the political, election-related and policy speech of labor unions.”

So, why are certain members of Congress trying to limit free speech and political debate in the United States of America at all? The only logical answer is to achieve a political advantage by limiting the business community’s right to speak out. As SBE Council made clear in our KEY VOTE letter: “No matter where one happens to fall on the philosophical and political spectrum, that is nothing less than shameful.”

America’s small business owners – the engines of economic growth and job creation – should be allowed to have their voices heard and their speech protected. The DISCLOSE Act would achieve the exact opposite.

The vote on the motion to proceed will likely fail this afternoon. As it should. The DISCLOSE Act is a “campaign-finance reform” sham.

Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO

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