Democrats Holster 'Disclose' Bill Facing NRA, Accusations of Double Standard

Interest groups protest double standard for proposed new rules.

ByABC News
June 18, 2010, 2:24 PM

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2010— -- If Congressional Democrats have their way, the names and faces behind some groups running political ad campaigns could soon become as familiar as the ads themselves when they hit airwaves this fall.

A pending piece of legislation known as the Disclose Act would require the heads of companies, unions and nonprofit groups to personally appear in any sponsored political ads and endorse the message. It would also require them to reveal the names of the top five donors who helped foot the advertising bill.

President Obama and Democrats see the measure as a response to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which removed limits on political spending by corporations, and a step towards fulfilling a promise to "rein in corporate influence" in elections.

But House Democrats, eager to pass the bill and avoid a fight with one of Washington's most powerful lobbies, have agreed to exempt from the new rules a small but highly influential group of organizations that most notably includes the NRA.

The compromise backfired badly late last week after groups on both sides of the aisle protested the NRA exemption, threatening to imperil passage of the legislation and its desired effect.

"The focus shouldn't be protecting one organization over another but rather protecting the U.S. Constitution," said Tom McClusky of the conservative Family Research Council. "The Second Amendment, Third Amendment, Fourth Amendment and so on mean nothing if not for the protections guaranteed in the First Amendment."

How the debate gets resolved -- and who would ultimately be subjected to the disclosure rules -- could have implications for Democrats in November at a time when many are eager to please their liberal base without raising the ire of powerful conservative groups like the NRA.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the bill's sponsor, attempted to soothe objectors by broadening the exemption to include groups with more than 500,000 members instead of an earlier 1 million member threshold.