The Senate’s top Republican on Friday portrayed the Obama administration as an Orwellian-style authority bent on stifling free speech of dissidents and whose “radicalism” threatens the First Amendment.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington conservative-leaning policy group, said the president’s push for strict donor- and contribution-disclosure requirements on most outside groups that spend money on political advertisements is a “political weapon” that can be used to target certain groups while leaving others alone.
“And that’s precisely what those who are pushing this legislation have in mind,” the Kentucky Republican said. “This is nothing less than an effort by the government itself to exposes its critics to harassment and intimidation.”
The president’s so-called Disclose Act is a direct response to a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that struck down most limits on corporate and union spending in elections on the grounds they violated First Amendment guarantees of free speech. That case, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, has been chastised by Democrats but generally applaud by Republicans.
Mr. McConnell said the Disclose Act highlights “an administration that has shown an alarming willingness itself to use the powers of government to silence these groups.”
He said the push by the administration and Democratic leaders to require donor groups to disclose the names of their supporters stems from liberals’ deep suspicion of capitalism and the private sector.
“All these efforts are for the purpose of limiting the ability of those engaged in private enterprises — or certain disfavored private groups or associations — to influence the direction of our country by participating in the electoral process,” he said.
The minority leader urged conservatives to unite and fight the administration to protect First Amendment rights.
“We’ve all got to unite against these tactics, wherever we see them,” he said. “If you see these things, speak up. Call out the offenders. Get ready for the criticism. And fight back.”
Mr. McConnell also blasted Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod for recent comments suggesting that, if the president is re-elected in November, the administration may push for a constitution amendment for more strict campaign finance reform.
“Amending the First Amendment for the first time in history would be the ultimate act of radicalism,” he said.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, pushed back at Mr. McConnell, calling his speech “an exercise in twisted logic and doublespeak.”
“As [former Supreme Court Justice Louis D.] Brandeis said, sunlight is the greatest disinfectant,” Mr. Schumer said. “Senator McConnell is apparently now afraid of sunlight because the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent for his candidates and against the president, if disclosed, would create an enormous backlash.”