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Letter to the U.S. Senate from NRAs Chris Cox About “Disclose Act”

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Published on: July 14, 2012

July 12, 2012

Dear Senator,

I am writing to express the National Rifle Association’s strong opposition
to S. 3369, the DISCLOSE Act.

In its landmark Citizens United decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down
the federal ban on certain political speech by nonprofit membership
associations, including the National Rifle Association. In an effort to
mischaracterize that ruling as something other than a vindication of the
free speech and associational rights of millions of American citizens, some
have repeatedly attempted to effectively reverse or significantly limit the
scope of Citizens United. The latest attempt in this regard is S. 3369.

The NRA has been around since 1871. Our members contribute for the purpose
of speaking during elections and participating in the political process. We
will not risk our Association or our members being silenced at election
time, as S. 3369 would do, while the national news media, politicians and
others are allowed to attack us at will. The NRA is a bipartisan,
single-issue organization made up of millions of individual members
dedicated to the protection of the Second Amendment. The NRA stands
absolutely obligated to our members to ensure maximum access to the First
Amendment, in order to protect and preserve the freedom of the Second
Amendment.

Among the many problems with the DISCLOSE Act are its unconstitutional
disclosure provisions. These provisions require organizations to turn
membership and donor lists over to the government. Under the First
Amendment however, as recognized in a long line of Supreme Court cases,
citizens have the right to speak and associate privately and anonymously.

Further, the DISCLOSE Act creates byzantine administrative burdens that will
suffocate individual citizen associations. The Court in Citizens United was
clear: “As additional rules are created for regulating political speech, any
speech arguably within their reach is chilled.” This bill attacks nearly
all of an association’s political speech by creating an arbitrary patchwork
of unprecedented tracking and disclosure requirements. Nonprofit
associations would have to track the political priorities of each of its
individual members. The cost of complying with these requirements will be
immense; for many associations they may prohibit speaking altogether. That
violates both the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment.

In addition, S. 3369 would give the FEC the power to require the NRA to
reveal private, internal discussions with its millions of members about
political communications. This unnecessary and burdensome requirement would
leave it to government officials to make a determination about the type and
volume of speech that would trigger potential criminal penalties, which is
unacceptable.

Recent media accounts of retaliation against certain political donors reveal
the true intent behind this legislation. It is not simply a “disclosure
bill”, as its authors claim. Rather, it is a not-so-transparent attempt to
rend Citizens United into a legal nullity, by chilling the very speech
rights that were restored in that landmark decision.

Due to the importance of the fundamental speech and associational rights of
the National Rifle Association’s four million members, and considering the
blatant attack on those rights that S. 3369 represents, we strongly oppose
the DISCLOSE Act and will consider votes on this legislation in future
candidate evaluations.

Sincerely,

Chris W. Cox

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