House Democrats are up and running, and their first bill is instructive. Couched as an anti-corruption and good-government measure, it is really an attempt to silence or obstruct political opponents.

A central part of H.R. 1 is “campaign-finance reform,” no surprise given the progressive fixation with money in politics, which oddly turns to mist when Tom Steyer or Mike Bloomberg are spending. The House bill requires some advocacy groups to publicly disclose the names of donors who give more than $10,000, even if the groups aren’t running ads that endorse candidates but merely inform voters about the issues.

The goal is to identify donors who don’t genuflect to progressive views, then bully or harass them to stop giving. Recall how the Mozilla CEO was driven out after he donated to California’s referendum opposing same-sex marriage.

H.R. 1 also includes provisions from the Honest Ads Act that supporters say would merely regulate online political ads the same as broadcast television. The pretext is preventing Russian or other election interference, though ads bought by Russian actors in 2016 (about $100,000) represent less than 0.01% of spending on digital ads that cycle.

Honest Ads would impose new disclosure and reporting requirements on online platforms that run paid advertising. This isn’t about equal treatment with television ads because the bill creates more double standards than it eliminates, and it ensnares publishers like this newspaper.

For instance, the bill’s expanded definition of “electioneering communications” would cover “communications that are not even targeted to any relevant electorate,” as Eric Wang of the Institute for Free Speech points out. “In other words, an online ad only running in Texas that named a Senate leader from New York would become a regulated communication. A similar TV or radio ad would not.”

Democrats would also overrule the tradition of states setting their own election laws. States would have to make voter registration automatic by relying on government databases, unless a voter opts out. States would also have to offer registration online and at least 15 days of early voting with no restrictions on voting by mail. Democrats say this won’t result in voter fraud, but automatic registration will inevitably register thousands who aren’t eligible or produce duplicate registrations based on faulty government data. Few people who don’t vote cite lack of registration as the reason.

Also misleading are provisions “reaffirming” the “commitment of Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act,” though it never went away. The bill condemns a narrow Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that overturned a voting-rights provision requiring certain state and local jurisdictions to pre-clear changes in election law with the Justice Department.

The Supreme Court ruled the restrictions were no longer constitutional because the voting barriers of 1965 no longer exist. Instead of celebrating this racial progress, Democrats play the race card by claiming the GOP wants to restore poll taxes and literacy tests.

Democrats know the bill is dead-on-arrival in the Republican Senate. But it’s a measure of Democratic priorities that their first order of business, before green energy or health care, is hamstringing the competition.

— The Wall Street Journal

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