In a letter opposing the DISCLOSE Act of 2012 — a bill to allow citizens to know what corporations and wealthy donors are paying for the “independent expenditure” attack ads enabled by the 5-4 Citizens United ruling — the National Rifle Association (NRA) is warning Senators it will score the issue in its legislative scorecard for this Congress.
The NRA opposes the measure — arguing that its “provisions require organizations to turn membership and donor lists over to the government” and would unconstitutionally abridge the right of citizens “to speak and associate privately and anonymously.” The legislation would merely require groups that opt to run outside political ads to tell voters which donors funded those efforts. By setting up a separate bank account for independent political spending, a group like the NRA would be able to keep its membership list private and would need only disclose the large money donors paying for the group’s campaign ads. Far from being unconstitutional, this sort of disclosure was explicitly endorsed in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Citizens United majority opinion as “the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations.”
In 2010, after supporters of the DISCLOSE Act agreed to exempt just the NRA from the bill, the group dropped its opposition. Now, without those special protections in the 2012 version, the group is taking no chances and is issuing a strong message to any Senator who might support political transparency. The NRA letter warns:
Due to the importance of the fundamental speech and associational rights of the National Rifle Association’s four million members, and considering the blatant attack on those rights that S. 3369 represents, we strongly oppose the DISCLOSE Act and will consider votes on this legislation in future candidate evaluations.
In other words, vulnerable Senators facing re-election may face secret-money attack ads should they back transparency for secret money attack ads.