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Letter to Senate: Vote NO on Cloture for the DISCLOSE Act

September 23, 2010

Dear Senator:


The National Education Association, representing 3.2 million educators across the nation, agrees in spirit with H.R. 5175, the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act (DISCLOSE). At this time we cannot, however, support S. 3628, the Senate version of the bill.

The DISCLOSE Act’s goal  is to shine a light on entities that expend large sums attempting to persuade voters—to reveal who is “actually paying for independent expenditures that explicitly endorse or oppose candidates, or for near-election broadcast references to candidates/electioneering communications.” NEA supports reasonable disclosure and disclaimer requirements that help fulfill this goal.

But S. 3628 would impose reporting requirements that are burdensome and impractical, especially for a many-tiered organization such as NEA. Like other national unions, NEA is financed almost exclusively by the dues individual members pay to their local unions; a portion of those dues finances national, state, and other union entities. For each instance of electoral or broadcast grassroots lobbying, S. 3628 would require national organizations and unions to report to the Federal Communications Commission, within 24 hours, detailed financial information on dues payments from their state and local affiliates, regardless of whether they have any relationship whatsoever to political activities. With some 50 state-level affiliates and 14,000 local affiliates, NEA could find these massive obligations impossible to satisfy.

It is especially troubling that S. 3628 places such enormous burdens on NEA and other unions—by law, democratically run organizations funded by individual dues payments—and exempts corporate-funded groups such as the National Rifle Association from all disclosure requirements.

NEA urges you to vote against cloture on the Senate version of the DISCLOSE Act. This bill is inequitable and would saddle national organizations and unions with burdensome and impractical reporting requirements while failing to fulfill the real goal: enhancing public knowledge of large entities that fund the deluge of political advertising unleashed each election season. The bill requires detailed disclosure of what the public already knows: that unions are funded by dues their members pay to state and local affiliates.

We look forward to working with Congress to forge a bill true to the real goal—revealing who is actually financing political activities—that is also practical and cost-effective to administer. 

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson        
Director of Government Relations

Mary Kusler
Manager of Federal Advocacy