Skip to comments.How Dems' NRA loophole backfired
Posted on 06/18/2010 9:27:20 PM PDT by STARWISE
Hatched over the last few weeks by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) with backing from House Democratic leaders and the White House, it was a legislative maneuver rich with the kind of irony that often goes unremarked in Washington a classic backroom special interest deal to help pass a bill that would require heightened disclosure of special interest spending on campaign ads.
The idea was to neutralize opposition to tough new campaign spending rules from one particularly powerful special interest group, the National Rifle Association, by exempting it as well as the left-leaning Sierra Club and the ecumenical Humane Society and AARP from certain disclosure requirements in the bill.
But while the maneuver was effective in getting the NRA to back down, the deal sparked a backlash that pitted big-money special interest groups, including some traditional allies, against each other, and turned fence-sitters and even some supporters of the bill into opponents.
Short of the votes needed for passage in the House, the bill was pulled Thursday night by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Nonetheless, a House Democratic leadership aide said Van Hollen and House Democratic leaders intend to honor the deal and stick by the plan. They consider it the only path to passage for the bill, which has little Republican support and dim prospects in the Senate.
The aide pointed out that the deal did not cost the bill the support of any of the major groups pushing for stricter campaign finance rules.
The legislation itself is so important that Public Citizen is still going to continue supporting passage, said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the group. But he bemoaned what he said were special interests groups trying to make sure that this law applies to everyone except them. No one should be carved out.
Known as the DISCLOSE Act, short for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections, the Van Hollen bill is intended to tighten campaign finance restrictions loosened by the Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision in January.
That decision overturned decades of law barring corporations and unions from spending general treasury funds (as opposed to funds from political action committees) on ads that explicitly advocated a candidates election or defeat.
Conservatives and Republicans praised the decision as a victory for free speech, while liberals and Democrats including Obama predicted it could unleash a torrent of corporate-funded attack ads against them.
The DISCLOSE Act would ban certain corporations from airing such election ads, and would require corporate and union groups that did to name their top five donors on screen and on their websites, as well as feature their top official on camera in the ads.
Many special interest groups would be affected by the DISCLOSE Act since they are registered as non-profit corporations, and literally hundreds of them had come out in opposition to the bill.
But Van Hollens team was most concerned about the NRA, which in a show of strength in April forced Democrats to mothball a bill to grant the District of Columbia voting representation in Congress by demonstrating that it had the votes to simultaneously repeal the Districts strict gun control laws.
They calculated that the NRAs opposition similarly could single-handedly sink the DISCLOSE Act by spooking conservative House Democrats whose support was needed to pass the bill, but for whom NRA opposition could be the kiss of death in an anti-incumbent election year expected to favor Republicans.
So when the NRA came out in formal opposition to the bill, arguing in a May 26 letter that the bills byzantine disclosure requirements have the obvious effect of intimidating speech, House Democratic leaders quickly pulled the bill from the calendar of the Rules Committee, which was scheduled to consider it the next day.
According to the House leadership aide, over the next two weeks, Van Hollen met twice with NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox, (((former head of that great govt. agency, the SEC, that regulates Wall Street))) once accompanied by Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina and once by John Dingell of Michigan.
Both conservative Democrats are among the caucus leading opponents of gun control.
On Monday, POLITICO revealed the result of the negotiations:
an amendment to the bill that would exempt from the disclosure requirements organizations that have more than 1 million members, have been in existence for more than 10 years, have members in all 50 states and raise 15 percent or less of their funds from corporations.
Though House Democratic sources say the goal was to exempt a handful of the biggest and most well-established advocacy groups, it turned out that only the NRA met all the criteria.
Advocates for tighter restrictions on campaign spending grumbled, opponents of the bill including the powerful right-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce accused the NRA of selling out, and gun control advocates pledged to oppose the bill unless the NRA exemption was removed, with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y), one of the bills co-sponsors expressing grave concerns with the NRA putting their fingerprint on too much of our legislation, and that is what has happened with this special carve-out.
Meanwhile, other interests groups balked at the NRAs preferential treatment and clamored to be made exempt, too.
But most problematic for the bills prospects:
liberal House Democrats balked at the perception that they were voting for a sweetheart deal for the NRA, regarded by many liberals as perpetuating gun violence in urban areas by opposing gun control measures.
As Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat, put it, since the NRA has worked against legislation to make it tougher to buy firearms at gun shows, it simply cannot be allowed to play by a different set of rules than one that seeks to advocate for such sound policy.
Van Hollen responded to similar concerns on Thursday, lowering the membership threshold to 500,000 for groups to qualify for the exemption, which brought in a handful of other top special interest groups, including the Sierra Club, the Humane Society and the AARP.
Now, progressive members can go back home and say that its not just the NRA that is exempted, its not just some NRA carve-out, said the Democratic leadership aide. Other groups are covered, too.
But that approach seemed to backfire to some extent, as well, further inflaming other groups that did not qualify under the loophole and even some that would benefit from it.
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I don’t believe that the NRA had this in their mind. They are guilty of back-dooring period. And I said before, for me it’s bye bye NRA.
Right . It is not so different than the McLame-Fiendgold Incumbent Protection act .
>> And now, it’s both parties.
It’s an indication of hopelessness and self preservation at the expense of our Liberties.
The NRA can go to hell if this is the type of crap it seeks to support.
I rode by on the Harley.
I kissed ‘em off when I found out one of their board members, grover norquist, was a big guy in the muslim terrorist front group CAIR. their agenda setter, lobbyists, fund raiser and overall heavy hitter, he was ALSO an NRA board member!!!!!!!! AND they knew of his anti American muslim crap!!!!! they did not care or remove him once they found out!!!!
Soros is a group of one. I am sure they exempted him somehow also.
John Dingell, a conservative. I think he was an NRA board member but other than that he’s a socialist.
Dingell’s no conservative.
No law means NO LAW. Close Congress.
True campaign finance reform would allow unlimited contributions from US citizens providing:
1) Payment was made via check drawn on a US bank.
2) Contribution was posted on the internet within 24 hours of receipt. Internet listing would disclose full name of the donator, address of the donator, and occupation of the donator. Internet listings would be fully searchable.
3) No contributions to individual campaigns allowed from organizations permitted. This includes labor unions, non-profit organizations, political parties, and businesses.
4) No contributions by non-citizens.
5) Spending records of campaign posted on the internet within 10 days of recording the item or service purchased, the amount of the expense, and the reason for the expense.
6) No public funds expended.
7) Candidate’s website required to link to disclosures on websites of organizations supporting the candidate.
8) Political activity by organizations requires full disclosure. Website would show amount of expense, how the money was used (i.e. advertising, get out the vote campaign, etc), candidate or party for who the expenditure was intended to benefit. Again, posting must occur within 10 days of the expense. Links of disclosures to candidate websites required as indicated in #7.
9) No direct or indirect political activity allowed by foreign organizations.
This proposal allows for unrestricted support by US citizens for the candidate of their choice. However, it also requires full disclosure, and easy access to disclosure, so citizens can make an informed judgement as to who may be influencing a candidate.
AND FOR ALL YOU IGNORANT ANTIGUN NRA HATING IDIOTS:
1. The NRA didnt become a lobbying group until 1974.
2. While whiners complain about mail, guys like me get out the checkbook.
3. The NRA fought against Parker, not Heller. Thats because Parker was filed before Roberts and Alito. We would have lost. The NRA knows how to count to the number nine.
4. The goa has never done a single thing in its entire history. Its the NRA and the SAF that filed all those lawsuits.
5. The R in the NRA stands for rifle. Not Republican. Get rid of Reid AFTER taking control of Congress or youll be whining about gun control and pleading for the NRA again. As always.
6. The antigunners hate the NRA just as much as some freepers. That explains the mentality of some freepers.
7. The media doesnt know the name of any progun group other than the NRA. That should tell you something but youre too stupid to understand.
8. The goa is the only gun group that asked the Supreme Court to take the narrow view. So far, they havent filed a single lawsuit to take responsibility for their actions. Its the NRA and the SAF that filed all those lawsuits.
9. Lazy, stupid people always have an excuse not to get involved.
NRA needs change in the front office.
I called and told them so...
Some FReepers can’t distinguish friend from foe.
Some Freepers allow the perfect to be an enemy of the good.
I support the NRA as well as GOA and others.
I recognize they are all my allies in the same struggle.
Thanks STARWISE! And ta hell with the paranoid.
There was so much ambiguity in the NRA “explanation” that who the hell knows? I don't think this sort of backroom deals were ever a part of NRA when Hesston was around. I prefer NRA to be more plain-spoken and just mount a campaign AGAINST a bill rather than try and fool the libs with some subterfuge. On the otherhand, the NRA Poison Pill did seem to work.
For me it was when the nra-ila donated to the murtha campaign. Im in the GOA now.
Join some pro gun org if not the nra. All the membership numbers count, not just the nra’s.