Thank the NRA for the Death of 'Disclose'

Now that the free speech-killing Disclose Act has yet again failed to go anywhere in the Senate, it's time to set the record straight on whom we have to thank for its rightful death: the National Rifle Association of America. Yes, the same group miscast to so many people by bloggers and drive-by journalists as the villain in this drama.

First, a little history is in order. In 2002, the NRA learned what so many Tea Party activists already know: you can't trust the political establishment. When campaign finance "reform" passed Congress that year, Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and White House. Republican Party leaders assured the NRA and other pro-free speech groups that there was no reason to worry, because even if the bill passed, it would surely be vetoed by a Republican president. After the bill passed and the Republican president failed to veto it, the NRA and other groups were again told not to worry, as it would be immediately declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. No such luck.

When the Supreme Court took a step for free speech earlier this year -- affirming the First Amendment rights of corporations and organizations in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling -- Democrats saw an opportunity to pass another draconian, anti-free speech bill dubbed the "Disclose Act."

The Democrat-led House and Senate put forth similar versions of the Disclose Act which had already been approved by the White House. Democratic leaders in Congress felt they had the votes they needed to avoid a filibuster and fast-track the bill into law.

But a funny thing happened on the way to dictatorship as 36 Democrats, who didn't want to run for reelection with the NRA hammering them for stripping gun owners of their right to free speech, got nervous.

Just as the bill was to be rammed through the House and Senate, these Democratic congressmen revolted and forced their leadership to carve out an exemption for the NRA. This sparked a feud between the left and right wings of the Democratic Party and forced a second compromise bill in the House that gutted the bill even more -- a compromise that included an exemption for large political membership groups from both the left and right, and with members in all fifty states.

The Senate, on the other hand, stuck with its original version of the bill, which the NRA continued to campaign against. The right and left factions within the Democratic Party continued to argue, and no compromise bill could be agreed upon.

So instead of a unified process whereby both houses of Congress would pass the Disclose Act, the NRA's action caused strife, argument, and disarray. What was supposed to be a smooth passage and bill-signing ceremony in May didn't occur. 

The House bill, which included the exemption, didn't pass until June, and it was now very different from the Senate's version of the bill. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had his work cut out for him. Reid's first attempt at a cloture vote failed in July. And now his second attempt over two months later has fallen dead as well.  Even if it had succeeded, it would have been different from the House bill, and so more debate would have ensued.

Make no mistake: The so-called "NRA exemption" was the bump in the track that stopped the free speech-killing bullet train from speeding through the House and Senate en route to being signed into law by a willing president.

Just don't expect the same people who write about the legislative process for a living (without bothering to understand it) to now be writing mea culpas to the NRA. Though they certainly should.

Brad O'Leary is publisher of The O'Leary Report, a bestselling author, and a former NBC Westwood One talk show host. To see more, go to www.olearyreport.com. To interview Brad, contact Shawna Shriner at (703) 272-1500 or ShawnaS@thepm-group.com.
Now that the free speech-killing Disclose Act has yet again failed to go anywhere in the Senate, it's time to set the record straight on whom we have to thank for its rightful death: the National Rifle Association of America. Yes, the same group miscast to so many people by bloggers and drive-by journalists as the villain in this drama.

First, a little history is in order. In 2002, the NRA learned what so many Tea Party activists already know: you can't trust the political establishment. When campaign finance "reform" passed Congress that year, Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and White House. Republican Party leaders assured the NRA and other pro-free speech groups that there was no reason to worry, because even if the bill passed, it would surely be vetoed by a Republican president. After the bill passed and the Republican president failed to veto it, the NRA and other groups were again told not to worry, as it would be immediately declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. No such luck.

When the Supreme Court took a step for free speech earlier this year -- affirming the First Amendment rights of corporations and organizations in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling -- Democrats saw an opportunity to pass another draconian, anti-free speech bill dubbed the "Disclose Act."

The Democrat-led House and Senate put forth similar versions of the Disclose Act which had already been approved by the White House. Democratic leaders in Congress felt they had the votes they needed to avoid a filibuster and fast-track the bill into law.

But a funny thing happened on the way to dictatorship as 36 Democrats, who didn't want to run for reelection with the NRA hammering them for stripping gun owners of their right to free speech, got nervous.

Just as the bill was to be rammed through the House and Senate, these Democratic congressmen revolted and forced their leadership to carve out an exemption for the NRA. This sparked a feud between the left and right wings of the Democratic Party and forced a second compromise bill in the House that gutted the bill even more -- a compromise that included an exemption for large political membership groups from both the left and right, and with members in all fifty states.

The Senate, on the other hand, stuck with its original version of the bill, which the NRA continued to campaign against. The right and left factions within the Democratic Party continued to argue, and no compromise bill could be agreed upon.

So instead of a unified process whereby both houses of Congress would pass the Disclose Act, the NRA's action caused strife, argument, and disarray. What was supposed to be a smooth passage and bill-signing ceremony in May didn't occur. 

The House bill, which included the exemption, didn't pass until June, and it was now very different from the Senate's version of the bill. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had his work cut out for him. Reid's first attempt at a cloture vote failed in July. And now his second attempt over two months later has fallen dead as well.  Even if it had succeeded, it would have been different from the House bill, and so more debate would have ensued.

Make no mistake: The so-called "NRA exemption" was the bump in the track that stopped the free speech-killing bullet train from speeding through the House and Senate en route to being signed into law by a willing president.

Just don't expect the same people who write about the legislative process for a living (without bothering to understand it) to now be writing mea culpas to the NRA. Though they certainly should.

Brad O'Leary is publisher of The O'Leary Report, a bestselling author, and a former NBC Westwood One talk show host. To see more, go to www.olearyreport.com. To interview Brad, contact Shawna Shriner at (703) 272-1500 or ShawnaS@thepm-group.com.