Commentary Magazine


Campaign Finance Bill Blows Up

Maybe it was a devilishly clever plan. The NRA struck a deal with House Democrats to exempt it from a noxious campaign finance bill intended as an end-around the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. And the entire bill blew up:

Following a rebellion by two important factions of rank-and-file House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has pulled a campaign-finance bill opposed by a broad coalition of special interest groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders had scheduled a Friday vote on the DISCLOSE Act, a bill requiring special-interest groups to disclose their top donors if they choose to run TV ads or send out mass mailings in the final months of an election. The legislation is designed to roll back the controversial Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which overturned restrictions on corporate campaign activities. But after complaints from the conservative Blue Dogs and the Congressional Black Caucus, Pelosi was forced to pull the bill on Thursday night.

It seems there was something for everyone to hate:

The Blue Dogs are concerned that opposition from the Chamber, National Federation of Independent Business, National Association of Realtors and other business groups will damage their reelection prospects in the fall. The CBC, on the other hand, was unhappy about an exemption to the bill granted to the National Rifle Association agreed to by Van Hollen. While the exemption was later extended to other groups, the CBC remained concerned about the bill’s potential impact on the NAACP and other progressive groups.

That’s more revealing than anything said on the subject. The name of the game is to shut up the “other guy.” But if your guy’s First Amendment rights are going to be curtailed, well then it’s an outrage. That is precisely the mentality Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected in his majority opinion. It is fitting that in the scramble to limit speech, House Democrats learned how valuable it was to their own supporters. Now if they would only learn to safeguard that same right for their opponents.