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Member Questions of the Week of July 5, 2010

David Weck of Cordova, TN asks: “Where can I read the entire SCOTUS ruling on gun rights?”
OUR ANSWER: You can read the full text of the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonald v. Chicago here. You might also want to check out our exclusive interview with lead attorney for the plaintiff Alan Gura, the case’s namesake Otis McDonald and Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb. In the interview, the three share their thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision and explain the impact it will have on Chicago and the rest of the country. As Heritage Senior Legal Fellow Hans von Spakovsky writes, this is probably the most important Second Amendment case in Supreme Court history. You’re right to want to be informed.

Robert Vandall of New Philadelphia, OH asks: “What does the DISCLOSE Act really do? My congressman is touting how wonderful it is that it limits the amount of money that corporations can give to political campaigns.”
OUR ANSWER: The DISCLOSE Act, which stands for Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending Elections, includes both bans on independent political advocacy by corporations and new, burdensome disclosure requirements. Sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the measure restricts political ads from companies that are partially owned by foreign businesses or receive taxpayer funds. It also requires corporations to place new disclaimers on any TV ads they fund and to include the names of donors in TV ads. This is how extensive the regulations are: DISCLOSE would require no fewer than six disclosure statements in a 30-second ad — or about half the ad! Importantly, unions — whose leaders and members overwhelmingly support Democrats with their dollars — are exempted from most of the provisions of the bill. The NRA wangled an exemption, too.

Because of these questionable exemptions, it’s hard not to be suspicious of the motivations behind the DISCLOSE Act. As a group of former Federal Election Commissioners — including Heritage’s Hans von Spakovsky — wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, “The FEC must constantly fight to overcome the perception that the law is merely a partisan tool of dominant political interests. Failure to maintain an evenhanded approach towards unions and corporations threatens public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system.” It also doesn’t enhance the credibility of the DISCLOSE Act that its sponsors are exceptionally experienced at campaign fundraising: Van Hollen happens to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Schumer is a past DCCC Chairman, as well. But, even if DISCLOSE is well-intentioned, it’s likely to be ineffective. According to the WSJ op-ed, the overly complex requirements of the bill will be especially burdensome to small businesses and grass-roots organizations, so the law’s end effect will be to ensure that only large corporations, unions and advocacy groups can make political expenditures — the exact opposite of what the sponsors claim to desire.

Helen Rosell of Wichita, KS asks: “What can a state government do when the federal government does not help them — as in the Jones Act or Immigration Law?”
OUR ANSWER: When the federal government fails to fulfill its responsibilities, states have no choice but to intervene. The immigration law recently passed in Arizona is an excellent example of such intervention. While some critics have suggested it preempts federal law, that’s really not the case. After all, it’s already a federal crime to be in the U.S. without proper documentation. This law simply makes it an Arizona state crime, as well. More importantly, it grants state officials the power to enforce what national officials aren’t enforcing when it comes to immigration — the rule of law. Heritage expert James Jay Carafano said it this way: “Arizona has acted because of a massive failure of the federal government to secure our national borders. The state now has the obligation to act responsibly in the course of implementing the law.” Similarly, when the federal government oversteps its boundaries, states can and do push back. Virginia and twenty other states, for example, have sued the federal government in response to Obamacare. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli explains the line between federal and state authority like this: “Simply because the Supremacy Clause says that federal laws trump state laws doesn’t mean that our law being trumped is not an injury. It simply means it’s a constitutionally allowable injury — but only when the federal law trumping the state law is constitutional.”

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