So with jobs and the economy the top issues leading up to the elections, what is the Democrat leadership in the U.S. Senate focusing on? Silencing the voice of small business. If this all sounds vaguely familiar, well we've been here before. The Senate previously rejected the DISCLOSE Act, but they are at it again. I guess they really are quite scared that small business owners will continue to make their voice heard in these weeks leading up to Election Day.
The bill is officially titled the "Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in the Elections Act" (DISCLOSE ACT). And as we noted during the previous vote on DISCLOSE, the legislation will muzzle the voice of the small business community. It is unconstitutional, discriminatory, onerous and politically motivated. The DISCLOSE Act protects the free speech rights of certain groups -- like labor unions and a few others big enough to get an exemption -- while clamping down on small business associations and our allies in the broader business community.
SBE Council sent a letter to the Senate this morning, outlining our strong opposition to the legislation. As we pointed out in our letter urging a NO vote on DISCLOSE:
"The clear intent of the bill is to muzzle the voice and speech of businesses and business associations in the upcoming elections. The voice and concerns of entrepreneurs have already been dismissed and ignored as legislation that robs them of their capital, time and ability to create jobs continues to advance in Congress. S. 3628 is simply another way to shut small business owners out of the political process."
Indeed, the intent of S. 3628 is to stop American businesses from weighing in on issues of importance during this critical election period. 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 many 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.
But 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. No matter where one happens to fall on the philosophical and political spectrum, that is nothing less than shameful.
Today, a cloture vote is expected on the motion to proceed to S. 3628. We urge every member of the U.S. Senate to vote against cloture. A vote for cloture is most certainly a vote against small business.
Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO