We appreciate the concerns some NRA members have raised about our position on H.R. 5175, the “DISCLOSE Act.” Unfortunately, the mainstream media and other critics of NRA’s role in this process have misstated or misunderstood the facts. We’d like to set the record straight.
We have never said we would support any version of this bill. To the contrary, we clearly stated NRA’s strong opposition to the DISCLOSE Act (as introduced) in a letter sent to Members of Congress on May 26 (click here to read the letter).
Through the courts and in Congress, the NRA has consistently and strongly opposed any effort to restrict the rights of our four million members to speak and have their voices heard on behalf of gun owners nationwide. The initial version of H.R. 5175 would effectively have put a gag order on the NRA during elections and threatened our members’ right to privacy and freedom of association, by forcing us to turn our donor lists over to the federal government. We would also have been forced to list our top donors on all election-related television, radio and Internet ads and mailings—even mailings to our own members. We refuse to let this Congress impose those unconstitutional restrictions on our Association.
The introduced version of the bill would also have prohibited political speech by all federal government contractors. The NRA has contracts to provide critical firearm training for our Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The bill would have forced us to choose between training our men and women in uniform and exercising our right to free political speech. We refused to let this Congress force us to make that choice.
We told Congress we opposed the bill. Consequently, congressional leaders announced they would exempt us from its draconian restrictions on political speech. If that happens, we will not be involved in final consideration of this bill in the House. If it doesn’t, we will strongly oppose the bill.
Our position is based on principle and experience. During consideration of the previous campaign finance legislation passed in 2002, congressional leadership repeatedly refused to exempt the NRA from its provisions, promising that our concerns would be fixed somewhere down the line. That didn’t happen; instead, the NRA had to live under those restrictions for seven years and spend millions of dollars on compliance costs and on legal fees to challenge the law. We will not go down that road again when we have an opportunity to protect our ability to speak.
There are those who say the NRA should put the Second Amendment at risk over a First Amendment principle. That’s easy to say—unless you have a sworn duty to protect the Second Amendment above all else, as we do.
The NRA is a non-partisan, single-issue organization made up of millions of individual members dedicated to the protection of the Second Amendment. We do not represent the interests of other organizations. That’s their responsibility. Our responsibility is to protect and defend the interests of our members. And that we do without apology.
Today, the fate of the bill remains in doubt. The House floor debate has repeatedly been postponed. Lawmakers and outside groups who once supported the bill, or took no position—including the Brady Campaign—have now come out against it because of the announcement regarding NRA. The outcome in the Senate is even murkier, as anti-gun Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has announced her strong opposition to the proposed change.
No matter what may happen now, NRA members can be assured that protection of gun owners’ interests will remain NRA’s top priority. Please check in regularly at www.nraila.org for the latest news on this issue.
Timothy P. Carney: NRA isn't the villain in the free-speech fight
By: Timothy P. Carney
June 18, 2010
Congressional Democrats, to avert a clash with the National Rifle Association, have crafted a blatantly unfair amendment to an already cynical and probably unconstitutional bill regulating political discourse. The amendment, crafted by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., exempts a handful of the most powerful lobbies -- including the NRA -- from proposed burdensome disclosure requirements.
It's a shameful moment for the House of Representatives -- especially the Democratic majority, and particularly Van Hollen. On the right, though, the ire is mostly aimed at the NRA for agreeing to drop its opposition to the bill because of the carveout.
But the facts paint an ambiguous picture as far as the NRA's culpability.
The NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, on May 26 wrote every House member, attacking the DISCLOSE Act for creating "a series of Byzantine disclosure requirements that have the obvious effect of intimidating speech."
Cox wrote, "there is no legitimate reason to include the NRA" in the bill's reporting and disclosure rules. Democrats say the bill is about curbing the political influence of corporations, which sometimes form nonprofit front groups to run issue ads. This bill aims to expose the real money behind such ads. The NRA, however, doesn't hide behind front groups.
The NRA's objection derailed the bill just before it was expected to pass.
Rep. Heath Shuler, a pro-gun Democrat from a conservative North Carolina district, responded with a proposal to exempt membership-based nonprofits from the bill. This would protect the NRA, Human Rights Campaign, Americans for Tax Reform, and many other groups.
Apparently, for Democratic leadership, that defeated the purpose. Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wrote his own amendment, exempting only the largest membership groups. It was a carve-out for the NRA.
So the NRA lobbyists were now faced with a bill that neither regulated guns nor regulated the NRA. Just as the NRA doesn't take a position on cap-and-trade measures or abortion bills, it decided it wouldn't take a position on the DISCLOSE Act.
The right exploded in anger. Other nonprofits felt abandoned. Some NRA board members felt betrayed. The conservative rank-and-file felt an ally had behaved selfishly to the detriment of the movement.
But the center-right is not some monolithic force with identical interests. The Chamber of Commerce supported the stimulus and cash for clunkers. National Right to Life didn't oppose the House health care bill. ATR was silent on the partial-birth abortion bill.
An analogy: I've read reviewers critique a book for not covering some topics they find important. Such criticism is silly, because it boils down to this: Even though the author wrote the book he said he would write, the reviewer wishes the author had written a different book than he wrote.
Today, some conservatives wish the NRA were a different organization than it is. It is not a conservative lobby. It is not the right's American Civil Liberties Union.
It is a gun rights group. On some occasions, the NRA has pushed pro-gun legislation that is anti-conservative -- such as bills limiting private property owners from prohibiting legal guns.
The NRA hasn't endorsed Van Hollen's crooked bit of cynical politicking, and it isn't critiquing anyone who fights the bill. It has just decided not to use gun-rights money to oppose a speech-rights bill.
And of course, the real villain here is Van Hollen, who -- in the name of curbing the special interests -- gave the biggest special interests a free pass.
But even faced with these valid arguments the NRA's walking away from this fight is hard to swallow. As NRA board member Cleta Mitchell puts it, the First Amendment is a principle, not merely an issue.
Also, Van Hollen's deal is so clearly unfair, and the NRA, by dropping its objection to the bill, is indirectly using unfair means to protect gun rights.
NRA lobbyists say they are just looking out for their members. In this case, that means abandoning friends.
Timothy P. Carney is The Washington Examiner's lobbying editor. His K Street column appears on Wednesdays.
Let me see if I get this right. The Supreme Court says that organizing to pay for adds is free speech. That speech is not liked by Congress so they write a Bill to limit free speech but allow a few exceptions. So, if you want to sponsor an add, thereby exercising your free speech rights you can do so only by membership in a Congressionaly approved group.
That should work out real well.
It is interesting that by trying to protect itself the NRA is put in a position of opposing free speech for others.
If this isn't evidence of the perfidy of those in the 111th Congress I don't know what is. Talk about Divide and Conquer. The Deviousness of this bill should spell its own demise and yet there are members of Congress who would force this on an unsuspecting electorate. These people must go and never be allowed in Govt. again ever.
Psalm 12 verse 8: The wicked walk on every side when the vilest men are exalted.
What Bob said.............exit, stage right! Please look to your right and observe the huge rabbit hole the US went down in 2010............
This all seems kind of moronic, doesn't it?
__________________ A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that. Shane
Nemo me impune lacesset
We recall the case of the Shoshone war band which showed up complete with one 30-30 rifle per man the week after Pearl Harbor, and simply wanted to have the enemy pointed out to them. "We hear there's a war going on and we want to go fight it." Jeff Cooper