The NRA’s recent negotiations with House Democrats to exempt the influential gun rights group from the newly proposed DISCLOSE Act has opposing groups protesting in concert.
The proposed legislation would require corporations, unions and non-profit organizations that support or oppose candidates to disclose their major funding sources. The NRA exemption has raised the ire of a number of groups, including the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE) and the national Gun Owners of America (GOA), but for very different reasons.
WAVE’s Executive Director Jeri Bonavia, in a June 18 email message to supporters, called the NRA negotiations and DISCLOSE Act exemption “disgusting.”
“Not surprisingly,” Bonvia said, “gun violence prevention groups and many others were outraged by this deal, and we've been letting Congress know.” Bonavia is especially concerned that the legislation will include a separate set of rules for the NRA.
The GOA, on the other hand, is angered that the NRA, in effect, sold out when it made its deal with House Representatives. A message on the organization's website home page, ostensibly penned by GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt, accused the NRA of having “abandoned the principle of protecting the free speech rights of all Americans, so long as their ox is not being gored in this instance.” The GOA supports the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC and believes any attempt to work around that decision would be unconstitutional.
The message to its 300,000 members went on to say in regard to the NRA, “Apparently it's ok to 'carve out' a little free speech if you're in the role of the 'elitists.' "
Members of the GOA are not happy because if the legislation passes with the NRA exemption, it will “leave millions and millions of gun owners and sportsmen belonging to dozens of different organizations out in the cold.”
The DISCLOSE Act was proposed in April by Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and 47 other co-sponsors (including Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl)in the Senate in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in January to overturn the Federal Election Commission’s restrictions on corporate and other special interest spending on campaign advertisements.
In the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court declared that corporations have the same rights as individual citizens to free speech. The result is that corporations and special interest groups have been given free rein to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections. This decision caused a huge uproar when it was announced.
Sen. Feingold said in an April press release, “The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United was a tragic error…the results of the decision are far reaching, giving big corporations greater power to sway elections and drown out the voices of average Americans. While no bill can reverse the Court’s mistake, we need to make sure that the public can follow the money and see exactly who is behind the onslaught of political advertising that the decision has unleashed. That is why this bill is so important.”
House Democrats eventually signed on, proposing their own version of the DISCLOSE Act with 114 co-sponsors, including Wisconsin Representatives Steve Kagen, Gwen Moore, and Ron Kind. However, the National Rifle Association (NRA) threatened to figuratively shoot down the legislation through their immensely powerful lobby efforts. To salvage the proposed legislation, House Dems struck a deal with the NRA that grants that organization along with a very few other special interest groups an exemption from the bill.