Cross-posted at DailyKos. The Senate Rules Committee meets today on “legislation that would force virtually all independent “527” groups to register with the Federal Elections Commission and abide by stringent federal regulations,” says the ACLU in a just-issued press release. More:
Other groups, such as Democracy21, think the legislation doesn’t go far enough:

“The naming of the Pence-Wynn bill as the ‘527 Fairness Act of 2005’ mocks all citizens who care about protecting the integrity of our political system and preventing the use of huge sums of money to corrupt our democracy.”

-From an April 20, 2005 Statement by Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer on the Pence-Wynn Charade “Reform” Legislation, which does nothing to deal with the soft money loophole created by 527 groups spending money to influence federal elections.

There’s an interesting note about Democracy 21 in Terry Neal’s April 18 column in the Washington Post about DeLay blaming left groups that are financed by George Soros for his ethics woes:

Wertheimer’s Democracy 21 has accepted about $300,000 from Soros’s Open Society Institute, his critics say. That’s a fair point. But it would also have been fair to point out that Soros’s largess has not stopped Democracy 21 from filing ethics complaints about two left-leaning, anti-Bush 527 groups last year that Soros had funded to the tune of $20 million. It also would be fair to point out that Wertheimer is spending lots of money and time advocating the “The 527 Reform Act of 2005” which would make illegal the sort of large contributions that Soros made to 527 groups last year.

From the ACLU press release this morning:

“This bill would further muzzle the free speech rights of groups not beholden to a political party or politician,” said Marvin J. Johnson, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Congress should strengthen the rights of groups like the ACLU and the Christian Coalition to contribute to the national political dialogue, not further limit their ability to speak.”

At issue is S. 271, the “527 Reform Act of 2005.” That proposal, being considered by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee today, would require that unions, advocacy groups, non-profit organizations and 527 organizations register as political action committees with the Federal Election Commission, even if their activities are non-partisan.

Despite claims from supporters that the measure would better regulate speech aimed at influencing the electoral process, the legislation contains no restrictions on corporations or individuals. Yet people who wish to join together on issues and pool their resources to increase the ability to have their messages heard would be restricted under the new rules.

The legislation would curb the ability of average Americans to come together and speak out against federal lawmakers, candidates for federal offices and political parties. If these new regulations had been in place during the 2004 election, the now infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and would have been forced to operate under very different rules and restrictions.

Non-profit and 527 organizations also add to the national political dialogue by increasing public awareness, interest and participation in the electoral process through “get out the vote” efforts and other non-partisan activities. The proposed legislation would cripple these efforts, giving incumbent lawmakers a huge advantage.

“Censoring groups from speaking their minds does nothing to end corruption in elections,” Johnson said. “A democracy can only benefit by promoting a system that allows for the free and open exchange of ideas. Stopping that flow hurts us all.”

What do you think? Do we curtail MoveOn to save ourselves from the Swift Boaters? What other legislation might be suggested? And what will happen if S. 271 passes?

NOTE: The DailyKos version is longer, and takes in the WaPo editorial today.

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