McConnell: Freedoms of Speech and Association Are Bedrock American Liberties

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) submitted the following remarks for the record at today’s Senate Rules Committee hearing on the DISCLOSE Act:

“Today, with our country facing an inflation crisis, a violent crime crisis, and a functionally open southern border, our Democratic colleagues are choosing to focus on chilling Americans’ First Amendment rights and enabling more harassment of citizens for their private views.

“Back in 1958, the NAACP fought Alabama’s Attorney General, a segregationist Democrat, all the way to the Supreme Court to defend the bedrock American liberty of associational privacy.

“Here’s what Justice Harlan said for the majority back then. ‘Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs.’

“As the majority opinion put it, this was, ‘hardly a novel perception,’ even back in 1958. And yet, for most of my career, I have had to push back against Democrats’ repeated attempts to unlearn this fundamental Constitutional lesson. I have repeatedly defended Americans’ right to join together and voice opinions.

“Prior to McCain-Feingold, almost all money in politics ran through candidates and party committees. I warned that placing unconstitutional restrictions on speech in that bill was like putting a rock on Jell-O – it wouldn’t quash political speech, it would just displace it. And the Supreme Court has consistently reaffirmed that point, in case after case upholding free speech.

“Our Democratic colleagues’ obsession with regulating political speech is what created the environment they now disapprove of. It’s what drove support for McCain-Feingold. And it’s what spawned this perennial bill in 2010.

“Democrats want to pass a law that put discourse in the hands of the mob. But, needless to say, they haven’t always been very concerned with compelling disclosure using laws on the books.

“Existing law already requires disclosure of donations to PACs and other outside groups with the intention of influencing federal elections.

“But even as our colleagues have introduced successive versions of this DISCLOSE Act, enterprising activist liberals have taken it upon themselves to ‘name and shame’ conservatives 

by ‘outing’ their private contributions illegally. It was practically Administration policy under the Obama-Biden IRS!

“And for those keeping score, Washington Democrats never seem as eager to publicize the donor rolls of groups whose political views they share.

“Somehow, donor privacy for organizations pursuing liberal causes is sacrosanct, but donor privacy for groups with conservative beliefs is a threat to democracy.

“Somehow, working for outside groups is practically a prerequisite for a West Wing job under a Democratic president, but association with groups Democrats don’t like is a one-way ticket to picketing and harassment.

“64 years ago, the Supreme Court said the link between the freedom of association and the freedom of speech was ‘beyond debate’. But today’s Democratic Party wants to make sure the threat to associational privacy is every bit as real as it was back in 1958.

“The stakes are so clear, even liberal groups like the ACLU have joined the NAACP and Senate Republicans in continuing to sound the alarm. They have been working together to fight state-level public disclosure laws all the way to the Supreme Court.

“Last year, the Court sided with these advocates to strike down predatory disclosure practices in California. Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit did the same to an unconstitutionally vague disclosure law in Montana.

“Meanwhile, the federal judiciary itself is contending with particularly outrageous threats from the radical left to the privacy and security of judges and their families.

“The same liberal groups stoking mob intimidation outside the homes of Supreme Court justices are the ones most eager to ‘out’ private citizens’ political speech records.

“The same Democrats who refused to condemn naked threats against public officials earlier this summer once again want to expand the federal government’s power to threaten private citizens.

“That’s not a trade the American people or their Constitution can afford to make.”