Hugh Hewitt: NRA blew it big time on Disclose Act 

"Do you wear a crash helmet to work?" I asked Bruce Josten, executive vice president for governmental affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, last Thursday, the same day the House of Representatives passed the Disclose Act.

Josten is widely recognized as a talented and influential voice of reason on the Hill, but these past 18 months have seen one setback after another for America's small businesses. The chamber often has had all the right arguments, but, as Disraeli noted long ago, a "majority is better than the best repartee."

The majorities commanded by President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have swept all common sense before them and now are taking direct aim at the First Amendment.

Thursday was an especially tough day for Josten and the millions of small businesses he and the chamber represent because not only did employers suffer another defeat, so did the Constitution.

Orwell would blush to employ so risible a title as "The Disclose Act" for a law that is specifically and openly designed to exempt the National Rifle Association from disclosure of its campaign efforts on behalf of candidates, even as gun control advocates and union opponents have to perform the unwieldy ablutions dictated by the incumbents in Congress.

Placing the NRA in a category of preferred speakers in the public square was the cost of passing the Democrats' plan for plugging the hole in the incumbents' wall against free speech opened by the U.S. Supreme Court this year in its Citizens United decision.

The president is baffled by the Gulf spill and confounded by Afghanistan and the economy, but he knows how to silence critics. Alinskyism 101 says if you can win, you should, and that "tactics mean doing what you can with what you have," even if the cost of winning requires tactics that use majorities that leave a scar on the First Amendment. Obama always follows the Alinksy playbook.

So, another day, another jam-down -- and another unforeseen eruption of populist blowback, this time not just against the Democrats but against the NRA as well. A significant portion of its membership is appalled by a bill that elevates the Second Amendment over the First.

The backpedaling has been furious as the Beltway Bigs among the gun folk have struggled to explain exactly what they were doing when the NRA did not take to the ramparts to defend free speech.

I began a little text poll on Thursday's show and will continue it through today's show. If a listener or reader agrees that The Disclose Act violates the First Amendment rights of corporations, they text an "A" to 77569. If the disagree, they text a "D" to the same number, 77569. If they don't know and thus have no opinion, they text a "N."

As anyone inside the Beltway who has been listening to the program since its debut on WRC AM 1260 a month ago now knows, I have a lot of NRA listeners across the country, so if the membership supported the leadership's walkabout on the bill, the results of my little text poll should split at least somewhat in proportion to my NRA listeners. But with 5,400-plus messages received when I wrote this Saturday and still more flowing in, the A's have it by north of 95 percent.

Thus, an audience full of gun owners and defenders of Second Amendment rights nevertheless voted overwhelmingly against the carve-out. The folks most likely to respond to the question are in fact gun owners.

They voted with their texts, and the NRA must be hearing the same thing from membership across the USA. The NRA should make defeat of the Disclose Act a priority going forward.

Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com

About The Author

Hugh Hewitt

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Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.

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