A prominent gun-control organization is sharply taking issue with a reported Democratic deal that would exempt one of the nation’s largest, and most influential, pressure groups from new campaign-spending disclosures.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is attacking a move by the House leadership to potentially shield the National Rifle Association (NRA) from the DISCLOSE Act, legislation designed to counter the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
As first reported by Politico, the House Democratic leadership is considering an exemption for the stridently pro-gun NRA as a means to secure the support of pro-gun Democrats to vote in favor of the bill, which would create a new disclosure system that would let the public learn which corporations or groups are spending money to influence elections. The bill would force organizations to reveal their top donors if they ran TV ads, or paid for direct-mail pieces, in the months leading up to an election.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed the DISCLOSE Act in response to the January decision by the conservative wing of the Supreme Court which struck down decades of regulation that limited the ability of corporations to influence U.S. elections. While corporations and other groups now have much wider latitude to spend on election influence, the DISCLOSE Act was meant to at least bring some transparency to that situation.
But now House negotiators are working on language that would, in effect, exempt the NRA, with revenues of more than $322 million in 2007, from having to reveal the sources of funding it spent on election efforts. The NRA has, for decades, spent heavily to influence elections, and specifically has strenuously opposed any attempt to regulate firearms of any kind.
The new deal would exempt the handful of groups with more than a million members who raise 15 percent or less of the funding from corporations from disclosing their larger contributions, but would require smaller groups to disclose their contributions. Unions, however, would not be eligible to use the NRA exception.
Rep. Heath Shuler, the conservative Democrat from North Carolina, reportedly is behind the NRA exemption.
According to Politico, NRA officials will review the new legislative language. If they sign off, House leaders could bring the DISCLOSE Act up for a floor vote as early as this week.
“It also appears there is now a new condition that must be met before almost any legislation is allowed to proceed in the Democratic Congress: make sure the legislation doesn’t upset the gun lobby bosses,” says Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “This so-called compromise is a shameful one, and we urge House members to oppose such legislation.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.