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Former FEC Chairs Weigh In Against DISCLOSE Act

Seven former chairs of the Federal Election Commission and one former commissioner have weighed in against the DISCLOSE Act, a legislative response by, primarily, House and Senate Democrats and the Obama administration to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.

They say the bill is likely to breed cynicism and contempt for government, is unnecessary and counterproductive.

The court ruled last fall that the ban on use of corporate and union treasury funds to directly fund ads advocating the election of federal candidates was an unconstitutional restriction on political speech.

The former FEC officials took aim at the bill in comments in advance of the Committee on House Administration, which is scheduled to mark up the bill Thursday (May 20).

They conclude that the bill is unnecessary, duplicative of existing law, with disclosure provisions that do not provide much value added for voters, and at the cost of making the law "more complex, more incomprehensible to ordinary voters, more open to subjective enforcement, and more open to manipulation by political partisans seeking to file charges for partisan gain."

They say they are not opposed to disclusure in principle, but that in practice the bill's disclosure requirements are not the right ones.

The Administration Committee advertises the bill on its web site as meant to "restore the importance of the individual American voter in the face of the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission." The Disclose (Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending In Elections) Act (H.R. 5175) would toughen disclosure rules for campaign ads by corporations, unions and advocacy groups.

The bill could also potentially reduce the new flow of campaign dollars to media outlets if those disclosure or other provisions prove a disincentive.

There are also limits on spending by U.S. subsidiaries of foreign entities and on companies that take government money--broadband stimulus fund bidders, perhaps--that could put a crimp in spending.

All the former members held Republican seats, but a spokesperson for the Center for Competitive Politics, which circulated the letter, said: "We hope people judge the facts of the letter on the merits and give the former Republican commissioners the same benefit of the doubt as they give the 46 Senate Democrats who sponsored the DISCLOSE Act."