Victory for Citizen Privacy: Speech-Chilling DISCLOSE Act Fails Senate Procedural Vote

September 23, 2022 | PUFP Staff

People United for Privacy applauds Members of the United States Senate for once again rejecting legislation that threatens the First Amendment rights of Americans to support nonprofit causes. A cloture vote to end debate on the so-called DISCLOSE Act failed 49-49 on September 22, halting the latest effort to pass the speech-suppressing legislation.

“For years, certain Members of Congress have sought to scare the American people into silence by threatening to publicly expose their giving to nonprofit organizations that voice opinions on public policy and government affairs. Proponents of the so-called DISCLOSE Act spin the bill as a campaign finance measure, but in reality, it would give the federal government unprecedented power to surveil civic organizations and the Americans who support them,” said Matt Nese, Vice President of People United for Privacy.

Despite supporters’ claims, the DISCLOSE Act does not concern funding for campaigns and political groups, such as super PACs. These entities are already required by law to publicly report the names, addresses, occupations, and employers of donors who contribute over $200 in an election cycle. Comments by Members of Congress and the media that suggest this overreaching bill will strengthen campaign finance donor disclosures are intentionally misleading the public about its purpose. The DISCLOSE Act targets nonprofit organizations that speak about legislative issues, government affairs, the courts, and other topics of public importance. Many of these nonprofits, such as the ACLU and the NAACP, have played a critical role in educating and mobilizing Americans around social causes for generations.

“Over the last six decades, the Supreme Court has consistently rejected proposals to force nonprofits to expose their members and supporters because this information is easily weaponized by their opponents and government officials to silence and retaliate against citizens for their beliefs. In an age of cancel culture, privacy is even more important for safeguarding free speech. Congress should be working to protect – not constrict – the liberties and constitutional rights of the American people,” said Nese.

“The latest failure of the DISCLOSE Act is a victory for privacy and free speech. It’s time for policymakers to stop entertaining legislation that tramples on all Americans’ First Amendment rights and instead embrace the fundamental principle that transparency is for government, privacy is for people,” he concluded.

People United for Privacy recently released a fact-check of Senators’ erroneous and misleading comments on this dangerous legislation. We also submitted a Statement for the Record criticizing the legislation following a late July hearing on the DISCLOSE Act in the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.