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Multi-Industry Letter opposing S. 791, the “Follow the Money Act of 2013”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 8:00pm

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE:

The undersigned organizations urge you to oppose S. 791, the “Follow the Money Act of 2013,” which would significantly restrict the ability of independent groups, including the business community, to exercise their First Amendment rights and engage in political speech.

The Follow the Money Act would dramatically expand government regulation of political speech. The bill aims to shelter candidates for federal office from the criticism of independent groups by constructing significant barriers to a group’s ability to communicate with the public. As a result, the bill raises genuine constitutional concerns.

S. 791 would regulate a broad new category of First Amendment activity–“independent federal election-related activity.” Any person or independent group intending to engage in such activity above a certain threshold would be required to register with and report to the Federal Election Commission. However, under the bill “independent federal election-related activity” is defined so broadly that it would require donor disclosure even if a group is merely contemplating speaking. In many instances, pre-speech activities such as “fundraising, polling, [and] message development” would trigger reporting requirements whether or not the group engages in future political speech.

In other words, the bill would require donor disclosure even before a group speaks. There is no government interest sufficient to justify disclosure of these types of pre-speech activities.

Further, the bill would impose exceptionally onerous “instant disclosure” reporting requirements on groups intending to engage in political speech. Under the bill, reporting would be triggered every time a covered entity receives a contribution that could conceivably be used to influence a federal election. For a large organization with many donors, this would require reporting on a near daily basis, even if the organization is not currently engaged in election related activity.

The bill also favors labor organizations over business interests. The bill includes an exemption for groups amassing funds through “contributions or dues” worth $1,000 or less per donor, per election cycle. This exemption would provide a safe harbor for groups like labor unions, whose funding model relies on mandatory low-dollar dues from millions of members, while leaving other independent groups constrained by the bill’s considerable disclosure and disclaimer requirements. As a result, the business community would be subject to burdensome, speech chilling disclosure requirements, while labor unions would be effectively provided an exemption.

We are strongly opposed to S. 791, the “Follow the Money Act of 2013.” The legislation is founded on both bad policy and bad principles. It is drafted in such a way to silence the voices of independent groups, including the business community, through unjustifiable restrictions on speech and burdensome reporting requirements. Accordingly, we urge you to oppose this legislation.

Sincerely,

60 Plus Association
Aeronautical Repair Station Association
Aerospace Industries Association
Agricultural Retailers Association
Air Conditioning Contractors of America
American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)
American Association of Exporters and Importers
American Bakers Association
American Composites Manufacturers Association
American Insurance Association
American Lighting Association
American Moving & Storage Association
American Rental Association
American Supply Association
American Trucking Associations
Arizona Business Coalition
Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Arizona Manufacturers Council
Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce /Associated Industries of AR
Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce – OH
Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.
Associated Builders and Contractors, Delaware Chapter
Associated Builders and Contractors, Empire State Chapter
Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan
Associated Builders and Contractors, Rhode Island Chapter
Associated Builders and Contractors, Rocky Mountain Chapter
Associated Builders and Contractors, Western Washington Chapter
Associated Equipment Distributors
Associated General Contractors of America
Associated Oregon Industries
Associated Wire Rope Fabricators
Association for Corporate Growth
Austin Area Chamber of Commerce – MN
Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association
Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce – WI
Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce – ND
Buffalo Niagara Partnership – NY
Business Council of Alabama
Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce – NC
California Chamber of Commerce
Catawba County Chamber of Commerce – NC
Center for Individual Freedom
Central Florida Chapter Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.
Chamber Southwest Louisiana
ChamberWest Regional Chamber of Commerce (representing West Valley City, Taylorsville and
Kearns) – UT
Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry – PA
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce – IL
Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry
Commerce Lexington, Inc. (Greater Central Kentucky Chamber of Commerce)
Construction Industry Round Table
Delaware State Chamber of Commerce
East Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce (representing Millcreek) – UT
Electronic Retailing Association
Electronic Security Association (ESA)
Equipment Marketing & Distribution Association (EMDA)
Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce – VA
Family Research Council
Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce – ND
Florida Chamber of Commerce
Fresno Chamber of Commerce – CA
Fullerton Chamber of Commerce – CA
Galion-Crestline Area Chamber of Commerce – OH
Georgia Mining Association
Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce – CA
Graham Texas Chamber of Commerce
Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce – CA
Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce – FL
Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce – SC
Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce – TX
Greater Louisville Inc. – the Metro Chamber of Commerce – KY
Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce
Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce – AZ
Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce – PA
Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce – NC
Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce – VA
Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce – VA
Heating, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI)
Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce – SC
Illinois Chamber of Commerce
Indiana Chamber of Commerce
Industrial Supply Association
International Foodservice Distributors Association
International Franchise Association
Johnson City / Jonesborough / Washington County Chamber of Commerce – TN
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry – IL
Kauai Chamber of Commerce – HI
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Kingsport Chamber of Commerce – TN
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce – CA
Lubbock Chamber of Commerce – TX
Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS)
Manhattan Chamber of Commerce – NY
Maryland Chamber of Commerce
Metals Service Center Institute
Michigan Chamber of Commerce
Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce – AL
Montana Chamber of Commerce
NAHAD – The Association for Hose & Accessories Distribution
Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce – IL
National Association of Home Builders
National Association of Manufacturers
National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
National Black Chamber of Commerce
National Council of Chain Restaurants
National Federation of Independent Business
National Independent Automobile Dealers Association
National Marine Distributors Association
National Mining Association
National Restaurant Association
National Retail Federation
National Roofing Contractors Association
National Society of Professional Surveyors
National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association
National Taxpayers Union
Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry
New Jersey Motor Truck Association
New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce
Newberry County Development Board / Chamber of Commerce – SC
North American Equipment Dealers Association
North Carolina Chamber
North Country Chamber of Commerce – NY
Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Ohio Chamber of Commerce
Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce – FL
Outdoor Power Equipment and Engine Service Association
Pacific-West Fastener Association
Palm Desert Area Chamber of Commerce – CA
Pelican Chapter Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.
Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry
Prince William Chamber of Commerce – VA
Retail Grocers Association of Greater Kansas City
Retail Industry Leaders Association
Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce Coalition
Richland Area Chamber of Commerce – OH
Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce – NY
Salt Lake Chamber – UT
Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce and Convention-Visitors Bureau – CA
Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce – PA
Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce – CA
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry
South Shore Chamber of Commerce – MA
Southwest Cable Communications Association
Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce – AZ
SouthWestern Equipment Dealers Association
St. TammanyWest Chamber of Commerce – LA
Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Textile Care Allied Trades Association
The Business Council of New York State
The Capitol Group
The Chamber of Reno, Sparks, and Northern Nevada
The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce – LA
The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce – NE
The Kansas Chamber
The Kansas Food Dealers Association
The Longview TX Chamber of Commerce
The National Association of Chemical Distributors
The Ohio Society of CPAs
The Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber – MI
The State Chamber of Oklahoma
The West Virginia Chamber
Tire Industry Association
Tucson Metro Chamber – AZ
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce
Virginia Chamber of Commerce
White Pine Chamber of Commerce-Ely, Nevada – NV
Winona Area Chamber of Commerce – MN
Wisconsin Grocers Association
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce
Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association