The Obama administration is attempting to bypass Congress and force publicly-traded companies to reveal their political donations through regulation.
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Corporate Finance has begun the steps necessary to create a regulation that would in many ways mirror the DISCLOSE Act – a bill Senate Democrats have failed to pass through Congress.
Created in reaction to the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that said corporations and unions could not have limits placed on their political expenditures, the Senate bill would require political organizations to publicly name their donors and the amounts they give.
The SEC regulation would do the reverse – force companies to disclose the political groups they support – and have a similar effect.
“The Division [of Corporate Finance] is considering whether to recommend that the Commission issue a proposed rule to require that public companies provide disclosure to shareholders regarding the use of corporate resources for political activities,” reads the proposal, as reported to the president’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Reacting to news that the SEC is considering adopting a similar regulation without Congress, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell condemned the action as a “direct assault” on the First Amendment.
“Sen. McConnell believes that in this country, there are few rights more sacred than those protected by our First Amendment,” the spokesman told The Daily Caller in a statement. “This action would be a direct assault on those rights, which is one of the chief reasons Congress has defeated similar proposals multiple times.”
McConnell has been the most outspoken Republican to condemn the Obama administration’s efforts to reveal the names of donors who give to political groups, declaring that the president is attempting to “silence [his] critics.”
“This administration claims that the goal of this bill is transparency, but the enthusiasm with which it has embraced the thuggish tactics of the left suggest that its true goal is to silence critics,” McConnell said at a speech in June of 2012.
In another speech that very same June Friday, McConnell cited a comment made by top Obama adviser David Axelrod just days earlier. “When we win, we will use whatever tools out there, including a constitutional amendment, to turn this back,” Axelrod said, referring to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. “I understand the free speech argument, but when the Koch brothers can spend $400 million, more than the McCain campaign and the Republican Party spent last time, that’s very concerning.”
“This, my friends, is all you need to know about this administration’s view of free speech,” McConnell would fire back. “The courts have said that Congress doesn’t have the authority to muzzle political speech. So the president himself will seek to go around it by attempting to change the First Amendment.”
All the chatter about amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United would eventually escape Obama’s lips – or fingers in this case – as well.
In August, Obama participated in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” question-and-answer discussion in which he announced that he would consider amending the Constitution “to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it.)”
Later that week, McConnell fired back again, this time in an exclusive interview with TheDC.
“It’s an act of genuine radicalism,” McConnell said. “We haven’t amended the First Amendment in 235 years. The First Amendment is the core of not only freedom of religion, freedom to petition the government, and the rest, but most important, freedom of speech.”
As to the SEC’s chances of actually forcing the DISCLOSE Act through regulation, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday that the SEC’s Republican commissioners are committed to seeing the proposal blocked.
“That should not be one of our priorities,” said SEC Commissioner Daniel M. Gallagher, according to Bloomberg. “That is just a political wish-list item. I think I speak for myself and I can speak for [Republican] Commissioner [Troy] Paredes. We have no interest in pursuing that.”