House Administration Chairman Robert Brady is expected to bypass the concerns of his conservative Democratic colleagues and GOP-leaning groups Thursday when the Pennsylvania Democrat’s panel begins marking up a campaign finance bill.
According to an embargoed list of the chairman’s amendments provided to Roll Call, Brady is setting aside the gripes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Rifle Association and other groups, which have concerns that the DISCLOSE Act will force them to reveal their corporate donor lists.
“In all honesty, the biggest thing they’re worried about are donations,” a Democratic aide said ahead of Thursday’s markup of the bill. “They’re worried about their donor lists being exposed. … Some [of Brady’s amendments] get to their concerns, but most of them don’t.”
Objections from the groups have prompted a rift in House Democratic leadership over how to proceed on the measure. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) is pressing for passage before the Memorial Day recess, while Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) has urged a slower course, pending fixes to mollify the business and gun lobbies — and a clearer path forward in the Senate.
During Thursday’s markup, Brady is expected to proposed seven changes to the bill, which is sponsored by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and attempts to mollify concerns over a recent case decided by the Supreme Court, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In its January decision, the high court threw out many restrictions on televised advertising buys by corporations, trade associations and nonprofit organizations.
With only two Republican co-sponsors, Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) and Mike Castle (Del.), the legislation has also faced harsh criticism from GOP Members and conservatives, who say its provisions are onerous and unconstitutional. In a Thursday letter to Brady and panel ranking member Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Bruce Josten called the bill “an assault on First Amendment rights.”
“Political speech, by corporations, is protected by the First Amendment,” Josten wrote. “First Amendment freedoms are at their height when the speaker is addressing matters of public policy, politics, and governance. … The Supreme Court repeatedly has recognized that voluntary associations are vital participants in the public debate and that government attempts to curb participation in associations in order to stifle their voice in the public debate violate the First Amendment.”
At Thursday’s hearing, Lungren is also expected to put forth seven amendments to the DISCLOSE Act, including exemptions for Internet communications and pushing forward the bill’s effective date to 2011.
Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.