The DISCLOSE Act (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending on Elections), or S-3295, is a pending act of Congress intended ostensibly to reinstate certain provisions of United States federal campaign-finance law that the United States Supreme Court invalidated in January 2010 as violative of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In actuality, the DISCLOSE Act is primarily intended to serve its "other purposes" of subjecting disfavored grassroots political groups, and the bloggers and other Alternative Media who cover them, to a burden of regulations, scrutiny, and audits that would virtually shut them down, while leaving Mainstream Media organs, and more specifically the print and broadcast media, untouched.
On January 20, 2010, the United States Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. FEC, held 5-4 that the federal government may not forbid a corporation, or a not-for-profit organization, to produce any material that directly refers to a political candidate, because that would infringe upon the First Amendment rights of the shareholders, trustees, or similar stakeholders of the organizations involved.
President Barack Obama condemned the decision, even going so far as to rebuke the Court in front of the entire United States Senate and House of Representatives in his State of the Union address. Justice Samuel Alito, unable to contain himself totally, mouthed the phrase, "That's not true" in response, as caught on camera.
Since then, the Democratic Party leaders of the Senate and House vowed to "correct" the Court's decision by passing a new campaign-finance law.
The full text of the bill, now numbered S-3295, is available here. The most problematic sections are modifications to Section 324, and specifically Paragraphs (a) and (b), as follows:
Note carefully paragraph (b)(4)(A-B) above. "Covered communications" are defined in terms of the medium that carries them. Radio and television stations, and printed newspapers and magazines are excluded, but on-line forums and "blog" hosts are not. Therefore, no commentator would be allowed to mention a candidate during election season. This would destroy many blogs that are set up specifically to cover election-related news during primary and general election season, while specifically stating that the Mainstream Media, or more specifically its print and broadcast organs, will be the only ones allowed to comment freely. The great fear is that this is an attempt to restore the Fairness Doctrine, and to begin with on-line media, which did not exist when the Federal Communications Commission first promulgated that Doctrine in 1949.
The National Rifle Association at first protested the legislation vociferously, only to fall silent after obtaining a special exemption for itself. It thus abandoned smaller groups that would be overwhelmed by the regulation.
On July 27, 2010, the DISCLOSE Act came within three votes of obtaining cloture in the United States Senate. However, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) craftily changed his vote at the last minute from "Yea" to "Nay" so that he would have the opportunity, under the Senate rules, to move to reconsider the vote at a later date.