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Posted by admin | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Wednesday 30 June 2010 2:29 PM

From Tristate-Media

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ATLANTA – Do we need term limits? Would you be surprised to know the average length of time a U.S. senator serves is 12.9 years? Or the average term served by a U.S. representative is 11 years? But too many of them seem to have been there forever. Those numbers are averages from the Congressional Research Service at the Library Of Congress.

The entire House is running for re-election this Fall and one-third of the Senate. Some people say their senators or congressmen are all right. “Good old what’s-his-name is OK.” All the others are political hacks.

Once upon a time, term limits didn’t seem necessary to your writer. Elections were enough to ensure a little sanity might prevail in the ensuing two years, but I came to see this as a flawed premise.

I’m still of the opinion the framers of our government were smart enough to account for many things in future centuries. What they could not know was the extent to which powerful interests and the money they wield can sway lawmakers. Efforts to stanch the growth of the special interests seem to go nowhere.

We need term limits. The President can serve only two terms, as set out in the 22nd Amendment. Some governors are limited to two terms. Why not limit U.S. senators to two terms, or 12 years, and congressmen to six terms, or 12 years? That’s enough time to show up for work on purpose, get the job done and move on to something else, probably as a lobbyist.

Politics used to be an amateur sport, of sorts, but somewhere along the way we handed this over to the professionals who know the blush that comes with election and the power it brings. Some early members of Congress were wealthy enough that they could serve for a period. Ego was part of propelling the ambitious to run, but terms were served then members went home.

The founding fathers were prescient when crafting the final form of the Constitution with all members of the House running for re-election every two years. Later, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution meant direct election of senators rather than election by state legislatures. There would thus be a holdover of two-thirds of the senators every two years.

Fast forward to the present.

Just like the TV news business with its crop of consultants, the political consultants seem to do the only important advising and consenting to which the elected servant listens. The senate gives advice and consents to some presidential actions. Senate and House staff members do much more behind the scenes than we’d believe, but we hear about almost none of that.

The Center for Responsive Politics says the 2008 campaigns cost $5.3 billion, with $8.5 million having been spent to win the senate seat in Minnesota. Norm Coleman spent $20 million contesting the election count and lost anyway. The average senate candidate had to raise $3,881/day for each day of the six-year term.

Raising that money means there are a lot of promises to be made. Compromise can be hard and is sometimes impossible. A newcomer to, say, the Senate, has to make a lot of bargains before he or she even gets to Washington. Then, it’s payback time and taxpayers wind up doing the paying while “Good old what’s-his-name” stays in office.

Stay tuned.

Goodnow was recruited by CNN in 1982 as an anchor/editor at the new Headline News channel and left the network in 2000. He began work as a journalist some decades ago. Reach him at cnnihn@gmail.com.

Study: Phila. parents want more school-choice options
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, School Choice
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| Tuesday 29 June 2010 4:30 PM

From The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Despite the explosive growth of charter schools in Philadelphia in the last decade, city parents say they still do not have enough good choices when it comes to picking a school, Pew Charitable Trusts says in a study released Tuesday.

White parents whose children attend district schools give higher marks to the system and individual schools than do African American parents. Parents younger than 30 are among the district’s “most dissatisfied customers.” Nearly eight out of 10 district parents under 30 say they have considered transferring their children to Catholic, charter, or private schools.

Those are just some of the findings contained in an examination of kindergarten-through-12th-grade education in the city by Pew Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative.

The report, which features a poll of 802 city parents with school-age children, found that school safety was a major concern and accounts for the largest differences in how parents view their schools.

The poll of district, charter, and Catholic school parents found that only 31 percent of district parents say their children’s schools do an excellent job handling safety, compared with 67 percent for charter parents, and 73 percent for those whose children attend Catholic schools.

“There’s a dramatic difference between how parents in the three systems see their schools on safety,” Larry Eichel, project director of the Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative, said Monday.

In the foreword to “Philadelphia’s Changing Schools and What Parents Want from Them,” Eichel, a former Inquirer journalist, wrote that the report focuses on parents because they face the task of navigating an often-bewildering sea of choices.

Nonetheless, educational choice has become mainstream in Philadelphia. Both Eichel and Laura Horwitz, a research associate who was one of the report’s principal authors, said they were struck that 62 percent of district parents have actively considered sending their children to charter, Catholic, or private schools.

“If people are being honest with us, it gives the idea that almost everybody is thinking about this,” Eichel said. “Obviously, there are some people who put their children in the nearest public school as a default situation, but not many.”

The poll, described by the study as a first of its kind, was conducted from Dec. 11 through 22, in consultation with Rutgers University pollster Cliff Zukin. It has a margin of error for questions posed to all parents of a plus or minus 3.5 percent. The study also conducted focus groups with some of the polled parents.

Parents, the study found, are looking for good, safe schools for children “and are not philosophically wedded to one system or another.”

With Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s plan to turn some chronically underperforming schools over to charter-school operators as part of her Imagine 2014 academic-reorganization initiative, educational options in the district will continue to proliferate.

The report, which took nearly a year to complete, is the work of Tom Ferrick Jr., a former Inquirer journalist, and Horwitz. They visited schools and interviewed charter operators, district officials, and educational leaders, including Ackerman and Bishop Joseph McFadden.

Ackerman said she could not comment on the report Monday because she had not yet read it. McFadden, whom Pope Benedict XVI named bishop of Harrisburg last week, was out of the country and could not be reached.

“Sometimes,” Eichel writes in the foreword, “the most important changes in a city are the ones that happen gradually. You don’t notice that they’ve taken place until you take a step back and compare where you are to where you’ve been.”

Since 2000-01, school district enrollment has declined 19 percent; Catholic school enrollment has dropped 37 percent.

Enrollment in independent, taxpayer-funded charter schools jumped 170 percent, to 33,107.

Charter schools supplanted the Catholic schools in 2008-09 as the city’s largest alternative to district schools.

While 60 percent of all parents surveyed rate the district as “only fair” or poor, 71 percent of parents whose children attend district schools say their individual schools are good or excellent. White district parents were more satisfied than African American parents, with 87 percent compared with 63 percent rating their child’s school good or excellent.

District parents under 30 were among the least satisfied with the public school system, with 58 percent rating them fair or poor. Sixty-four percent of African American parents rated the public schools fair or poor, compared with 54 percent for white parents.

Ninety percent of charter parents and 92 percent of Catholic school parents are highly satisfied with their children’s education.

Forty-two percent of parents say it’s “somewhat hard” or “very hard” to find enough information about the educational options; 72 percent say city parents need more good choices.

Sixty-two percent of parents said the expansion of charter schools has been a good thing.

“In Philadelphia, charter schools have been embraced by parents in a way that resembles a slow-motion stampede,” the report says. “This trend has developed in the face of evidence that many charters perform no better than district schools, and a constant drumbeat of news reports and investigations regarding alleged and proven improprieties in the way charters operate.”

Researchers found that the growth of charters – there were 67 in the year just ended – not only left the district with 45,000 empty seats, but also weakened a system of Catholic schools already grappling with fewer Catholics living in the city.

Most pastors, Catholic administrators, and officials in the archdiocese said they expected the decline to continue. One Catholic educator in the report said that charters had in effect “stolen the Catholic brand” by emphasizing safety, discipline, and the teaching of values, but not charging tuition. “It is competition we can’t meet,” the educator said.

The Catholic schools already receive support from organizations such as Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (BLOCS). A new group called the Philadelphia School Project aims to raise private money to support good schools, no matter who operates them.

New Jersey Senate approves interdistrict school choice program
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, School Choice
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| Tuesday 29 June 2010 2:08 PM

From New Jersey.com

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A little known pilot program that allows children to attend school in districts they don’t live in would be made permanent under a bill that cleared the state Senate today.

The bill makes the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program, which started in 2000 and has continued as a pilot program since expiring in 2005, permanent. It passed 38-0 and is set to be taken up by the Assembly this afternoon.

“Students should not be handcuffed to a school solely based on their zip code or home address,” added state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), the bill’s sponsor. “This bill will enable families across New Jersey to tap into all the best that our public education system has to offer.”

There are 15 districts that participate in the program — the maximum allowed under the pilot program — with about 900 students attending participating districts they don’t live without having to pay tuition. If the bill becomes law, there would be no limit on the number of districts that will be able to participate. Districts that want to join the program would apply to the commissioner of education.

Districts would be able to restrict the number of their students going to other districts at 10 percent of the students in each grade level or 15 percent of their total student enrollment.

To enroll in another district, students will have to spend at least one year in their local districts.

Mark DeVol Commits to Bonded Term Limits
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Monday 28 June 2010 4:33 PM

From The Tenth Amendment Center

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In a bold move demonstrating his commitment to the founding principles of a limited federal government, congressional candidate Mark DeVol has posted a $1 million bond to guarantee his belief in and support for term limits.

DeVol, running as an independent for Tennessee’s Third District seat posted a bond to insure he will never seek additional terms, DeVol issued this statement:

“True citizen representation will ensure the majority of those serving in the U.S. House will bring to the policy debate their experiences from the private sector that result in decisions that are truly in the public’s best interest.

“A three-term limit means that, every two years, one-third to one-half of the U.S. House will consist of first-term representatives. This is crucial in diminishing the excessive concentration of power via committee chairmanships.

“With a limited term of service, leadership will rise through experience instead of seniority, a process that reflects more effectively the public’s opinion.

“For the concept of Citizen Legislator to have meaning, those serving in Congress must clearly view their time in office as a leave of absence from their day-to-day jobs and careers.

“This is most effectively demonstrated by refusing to accept pension and health-care benefits. A willingness to accept these taxpayer-funded perks, especially after only a few years of service, is consistent with a mindset of entitlement.

To learn more about Bonded Term Limits please visit the Alliance for Bonded Term Limits at www.bondedtermlimits.org or visit Mr. DeVol’s website at www.devol2010.com to see a copy of his signed promissory note.

Mark DeVol is running as an independent for Congress in Tennessee’s 3rd District. He lives in Anderson County, near Andersonville and Norris. He’s been a small business owner for the past 24 years – running DeVol Millwork, which services the residential and commercial construction industry in East Tennessee. Visit his campaign website at www.devol2010.com.

Councilmen consider term limits and an end to lifetime benefits
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Friday 25 June 2010 3:36 PM

From The Valley Chronicle

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Members of the Hemet City Council will have no lifetime benefits at taxpayer expense and will not be able to serve indefinitely if Councilman Robert Youssef has his way.

Youssef joined Jerry Franchville in proposing that voters be given the option of imposing term limits on council members in a referendum on the November ballot.

He also proposed that benefits be eliminated from the compensation collected by council members.

City Attorney Eric Vail said Youssef’s desire to end benefits for the nine former city officials, some of them retired and some still working, with lifetime entitlement to medical and dental benefits is not so simple.

“Previous officials have a property right,” said Vail, and it cannot be taken away by the current council.

Youssef said one of the nine, Ken Nishino, is not a former official himself, but the survivor of a former member of the City Council.

The others who are receiving benefits years after they have left government include former council members Pat Herron, Marge Tandy, and Lori VanArsdale.

Lyle Alberg is both a former city manager and former member of the City Council who is still collecting benefits, along with former City Managers Joe Guzzetta and Steve Temple.

Former City Clerk Brenda Garrity and former City Attorney Robert Henderson are also collecting benefits.

Councilwoman Robin Lowe said she believes the council has ended benefits for former council members already.

Vail said sitting council members would have to give up their benefits voluntarily.

Franchville said he favors ending benefits for sitting council members so it does not become an issue in the future.

“I don’t feel we necessarily need these,” Youssef said. “We’re not full time. We don’t need medical and dental benefits.”

Franchville said his and Youssef’s situations particularly show the need to end the lifetime benefits.

“If you and I had it, we could have it for 50 or 60 years,” he said.

Franchville and Youssef are the youngest council members.

Franchville chided City Manager Brian Nakamura for not putting the term limit proposal on this week’s city council agenda, despite his request for it, and insisted that it be on the July 13 agenda.

Vail said time is getting short to qualify for the November ballot, but it can be done.

He said term limits cannot begin with sitting council members nor to council members newly elected in November, but would start with terms beginning in 2012.

Two council terms are up this year, those of Lowe and Eric McBride.

The new term limits, if approved by voters, would not apply immediately to any sitting council member, who would not become subject to term limits until they are re-elected.

Both Lowe and McBride say they are still deciding whether to run for re-election.

The council would also have to decide how many terms they would ask voters to approve.

Youssef said he favors a two-term limit and that it be a lifetime limit so council members could not leave the council, then run for election again in the next, or any future, cycle.

Council members serve four-year terms, which would make a two-term limit good for eight years.

To qualify for the November ballot, the council must have the proposal to the registrar of voters by Aug. 8.

Gov. Christie to review proposed changes to N.J. school-choice bill
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, School Choice
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| Friday 25 June 2010 1:14 PM


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Gov. Chris Christie delivers the keynote address at the National School Choice Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, in this May file photo.

TRENTON — The fate of a school-choice bill backed by Gov. Chris Christie was in flux Tuesday after a sponsor announced significant changes in hopes of winning quick legislative approval.

The Republican governor — who has called the bill a first step that could “lead to school vouchers across the state of New Jersey” — said he will review the proposed changes. He also warned lawmakers not to “gut the purpose of the program” just to attract enough votes.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said the bill now limits the pilot program to “chronically failing schools in specific municipalities” based on local legislators’ support, rather than about 200 troubled schools in more than 30 districts. He declined to say how many schools might be eligible, but said districts include Newark, Camden and Elizabeth.

“In some respects, it may work even better because there will be more scholarships available in the targeted municipalities,” he said.

The new version (S1872) would also eliminate an innovation fund that would award grants to improve struggling schools. The money would have come out of a district’s per pupil state aid for each child who got a scholarship.

That provision had been championed by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union), Lesniak’s co-sponsor on the legislation. Kean Tuesday declined comment on the changes, saying the bill is still subject to “an ongoing conversation” to make it “the best possible solution.”

The program would allow low-income students in “chronically failing” schools to get scholarships to pay tuition at private schools or public schools in other communities. Doled out through a lottery system, the 24,000 scholarships would be funded by corporate donors who would get a break on their state taxes.

Critics say it would drain more money from public schools at a time when Christie has slashed $820 million in aid.

Lesniak announced the changes at a press conference where the Black Ministers’ Council of New Jersey urged Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) to support the bill, warning that Democratic leaders should not take African-American voters for granted.

Oliver, the first African-American woman to hold the Assembly’s top job, said Democrats have “legitimate concerns” about the bill and she has not made a decision. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said he “will not be a roadblock” and the bill deserves “a sincere debate.” He also declined to set a date.
Hundreds rally in support of school voucher bill

Christie, who had pushed for approval by June 30, Tuesday blamed the delay on “capitulation to the teachers union” — referring to the powerful New Jersey Education Association’s opposition to the bill.

“Each one of those members of the Legislature who do not support real opportunity and hope for these children should have to answer for why they deny civil rights to those children and their families,” Christie said.

NJEA spokesman Steve Baker said the union did not seek the changes and the bill is “still bad policy.”

“Pulling resources, pulling students and pulling support for public education is not the way to strengthen those schools,” Baker said.

Avalon Couple Wins Eminent Domain Case
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, Property Rights
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| Wednesday 23 June 2010 1:41 PM

From Fox Philly

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Couple Lost Beachfront Home In 1962 Nor’easter

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled in favor of an Avalon couple in an eminent domain case.

The couple lost their beachfront home during a 1962 nor’easter. The borough then seized the land and built sand dunes on the property.

In 1997, the homeowner filed for permits to build on the land, but the borough told them they no longer owned the land.

The high court rule that Avalon’s actions were “contradictory” and said the town “skirted its obligation to answer for its action.”

The matter is being sent back to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the state Supreme Court’s opinion.

The court adds, “Equity demands that plaintiffs be allowed the opportunity to amend their complaint to include a claim for inverse condemnation to seek compensation from the Borough.”

Link:N.J. Supreme Court Opinion

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LETTER: Term limits will help keep Congress equal
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Tuesday 22 June 2010 4:45 PM

From The Wausau Daily Herald

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EDITOR: I read the recent article about Rep. Dave Obey’s district director Doug Hill and feel it deserves a couple comments. Term limits need to be a part of the legislative agenda in the very next Congress!

I have read many books and items written by our founding fathers. These folks were very intelligent and had many good ideas as to how to keep this country free, creative, productive, innovative and a great place to live! They wrote checks and balances into the Constitution for a reason.

Todays legislators are ignoring these checks and balances and doing what they want not what the majority of the people want.

Term limits would level this playing field so that there would be no single person able to control what is happening in our government. There would be leaders making sound common sense decisions.

There should be no elected official who has more power than any of the others. They are all elected by their constituents to make the right decisions regarding legislation for the good of this country.

Anytime a legislator gets funds for his or her district, someone will be paying taxes to pay for those funds! Today our elected officials throw money at each and every problem that comes up. It is time to limit the terms so that we can limit the power of the congress.

These need to be the directions we give to those we elect this November and send to Washington.

Chuck Bolder,


Eminent domain petition drive 'on schedule'
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, Property Rights
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| Friday 18 June 2010 6:00 PM

From The Clarion Ledger

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The head of the organization spearheading the movement to put eminent domain on the 2011 statewide ballot is confident plenty of signatures will be secured.

“We’re doing well,” said David Waide, president of Mississippi Farm Bureau. “We’ve got some to go, but we’re doing well. We’re on schedule.”

Farm Bureau led the charge in 2009 to pass legislation prohibitting state government from using eminent domain for private economic development projects.

Currently, the state can use eminent domain for public use like utilities construction and private economic development projects that have to meet a list of job-creation criteria and gain approval from the Legislature.

A bill that would have eliminated private use sailed through both chambers last year but was vetoed by Gov. Haley Barbour, who vehemently opposed it.

Barbour said the bill would severely damage Mississippi’s ability to land big economic development projects like Toyota and Nissan. For those, eminent domain was used to acquire small parcels of land where the automotive facilities sit.

After Barbour vetoed the measure, there was no small degree of confidence that Barbour’s perfect record of sustained vetoes would incur its first blemish. The House voted overwhelmingly to override Barbour’s veto. But the Senate did not, and many senators changed their votes.

Shortly afterward, Waide and Farm Bureau launched their ballot initiative campaign.

To get the issue on the ballot, at least 89,285 certified signatures must be gathered, with at least 17,857 coming from each of the five congressional districts as they existed in 2000.

The figures represents 12 percent of votes cast for governor in the last election. Signatures have to be certified by county circuit clerks as belonging to registered voters in Mississippi.

Waide said his organization has self-imposed a Sept. 1 deadline to get signatures certified and submitted to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office. The official deadline for signatures is 90 days before the start of the 2011 legislative session, which begins the first week of January.

So far, Waide said, the response from his 600,000 members has been as brisk as he expected.
“We’ve had overwhelming support from outside the Farm Bureau from people who are very interested in trying to preserve the right to own property,” he said.

A Congressional Assault on Free Speech
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Posted by admin | Free Speech
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, Issues
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| Friday 18 June 2010 4:34 PM

From City Watch LA

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In January 2010 the United States Supreme Court made a landmark decision in the case of “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.” The case was a challenge against so-called campaign finance rules adopted by Congress and enforced by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that limited the ability of businesses to participate in the political process by contributing money for things like issue based advertising. In a 5-4 decision the Court ruled that this law was a violation of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Justices found that corporations and the shareholders who own these businesses have the same rights to free speech as any other groups or individuals, including labor unions.

This decision infuriated those in Obama’s administration to the point that President Obama took the unprecedented action of publicly scolding the members of the Court when they sat in front of him during his State of the Union address. He claimed that the ruling opened the door to foreign corporations to influence our elections. That is not true.

However, since the many in Congress are now facing the prospect of heavy losses in the upcoming November 2010 elections they have introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to adopt new regulations that would clearly violate the ruling of the Supreme Court and the provisions of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. As usual, this is a lengthy and complicated piece of legislation but the intent is clear. The free speech right of businesses and other groups that traditionally support conservative Republican candidates will be severely limited in future elections.

For example, any group formed for political advertising purposes must disclose the names of the top five contributors to it at the end of each advertisement and the major funder of each ad must file a separate disclaimer standing by the advertisement. In addition, every corporation must disclose any political expenditure it makes on its website within 24 hours of making the expenditure. If a small family owned corporation doesn’t have a website then it probably is prohibited from any political activities at all. The Constitutional implications are clear. The right to any privacy is gone and these disclosure requirements are in direct violation of the decision by the Supreme Court.

Of particular interest are groups such as labor unions that traditionally support liberal Democrats in elections whose rights are not limited under the provisions of this 90-page piece of legislation.

Members of Congress and the Obama Administration who have drafted and support this legislation are well aware that it violates the Constitution and will inevitably be struck down by the Supreme Court. However, the game plan is obvious. The legislation will be rammed through Congress using any means necessary. Much of the work is being done in secret and the proposed legislation has already passed a key House Committee.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), one of the architects of HR 5175 said the “Disclose Act” as it is named “will promote transparency and disclosure, and ensure those powerful special interests spending millions of dollars are not able to hide behind third party groups, sham organizations, and dummy corporations.” However, groups like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and ACORN do not appear to be covered by these requirements.

The DISCLOSE Act will soon be brought to the House floor for a full vote. (Note: This bill was schedule for a full congressional vote Thursday.) Then it will immediately go to the Senate for Action. But how many in Congress and the Senate will actually read the Bill before its potential passage? Recent history dictates that many in Congress make comments on legislation they have not read and never intend to read, but vote consistent with other party members, irrespectively.

HR 5175 is designed to go into effect 30 days after it passes and is signed by the President.

This means the FEC will begin enforcement well prior to the November elections. Businesses, particularly small family owned corporations will not have the money or personnel to begin to understand the law and meet its requirements. They will be forced to sit out the upcoming elections or face penalties for violating the new law.

Those in Congress touting the Bill are also counting on the fact that the Supreme Court will not have an opportunity to hear any lawsuits challenging the radical law until after the election. Some Democrats feel that enforcing these unconstitutional limitations on free speech will give them the edge they need to win many close elections for Senate and House seats. This type of tactic violates everyone’s rights.

It is imperative that readers immediately contact their Senators and Representatives and let them know that the American people are well aware of what is happening here and will not tolerate it. HR 5175 can be viewed here

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