The introduction of new campaign finance legislation in the House has met with mixed reviews owing primarily to the disclosure exemption added for the National Rifle Association. But despite the criticism expressed by a host of good government groups -- some of which have begrudgingly said they would support the legislation -- the effort didn't seem to be in much political peril.
Until now, perhaps. On Wednesday morning, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cali.) became the first Democratic lawmaker to publicly come out against the NRA deal, in a statement provided to the Huffington Post.
I strongly oppose any special exemption for the National Rifle Association in the DISCLOSE Act. The purpose of this bill is to make sure that elected representatives are not beholden to special interests, yet here is special interest # 1 receiving a deal to exempt it from an otherwise very good bill.
This is bad policy. The law should apply to the NRA, just like any other group. If the NRA, or any similar group, is going to spend millions on political ads, the American public has a right to know who is funding them.
The bill is the DISCLOSE Act, not the 'Everyone Except the NRA DISCLOSE Act.'
The NRA claims they need an exemption to protect their First Amendment rights, but that argument simply doesn't hold up. The Supreme Court has stated clearly that although all are free to speak and advocate their positions, when a group runs ads for and against candidates, disclosure requirements are appropriate.
Democrats can ill-afford Senate defections on this legislation. Already, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has come out against the DISCLOSE Act, criticizing its authors for cutting a deal with the gun lobby and expressing traditionally-conservative complaints about the broader "restrictions" on free speech. It stands to reason that a large chunk of the GOP caucus will echo his complaints.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is tasked with moving parallel legislation through the chamber. And aides say he too understands that an NRA exemption is likely needed to keep that group from lobbying against the measure. But if Feinstein (a longtime gun-control advocate) is to defect -- and if she is to be joined by a handful of other Democrats -- the party could very well find itself short on votes.
There is likely some time to find agreement. A Senate aide tells the Huffington Post that the chamber would like to move the bill forward between now and the upcoming recess two weeks away. But they will wait for the House to pass its bill first. And if that doesn't occur by the end of the week, the calendar for Senate consideration is unclear.