October 12, 2010
Political Speech Laws: The Ruling Class Versus Mom, Pop -- and Rape VictimsBy Mark J. Fitzgibbons
When President Obama said in his State of the Union address earlier this year that the Citizens United Supreme Court decision would open the floodgates to foreign spending on elections, he was legally and factually wrong. He didn't issue a correction. Being wrong (or, for that matter, hypocritical) doesn't seem to bother or embarrass the obdurate ideologue and globalist.
Donna Brazile, presidential campaign manager for globalist and current millionaire jet-setter Al Gore, recently criticized the increase in ads financed independently of candidate, party, and political action committees that the Citizens United decision recognized as protected by the First Amendment. Without citation to authority or disclosing who finances her opinions, she wrote, "More than half of the money is coming from undisclosed donors -- and now foreign corporations may be getting into the act."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running ads along the theme that Democratic-imposed regulations are "pervasive, insidious, and need to be exposed" because they are "suffocating the entrepreneurial spirit" in America. House Majority Whip James Clyburn says Congress will investigate the Chamber of Commerce and whether its ads are financed with foreign money.
I guess suffocating America's entrepreneurial spirit isn't enough for Democrats, who believe they must suffocate free speech of critics as well.
Meanwhile, the National Center for Public Policy Research reports that the Obama administration is using stimulus funds to reward companies such as General Electric, Duke Energy, and others that have pushed Obama's energy policies. GE is, of course, the parent company of NBC and the insanely pro-Democratic, anti-Republican MSNBC.
GE is getting even bigger in the oil and gas industry and is a major player in health care in "more than 100 countries and territories." FOO (Friend of Obama) and Obama economic advisor Jeff Immelt is GE's chairman.
Battle lines are being drawn in the rarefied air of millions and billions of dollars over whose political speech may be funded in part by foreign corporations versus whose political speech is definitely funded by foreign corporations and U.S. taxpayer money.
The left may regret picking that fight.
Meanwhile, at the successful Virginia Tea Party Convention (appropriately titled "The Constitution Still Matters"), I had the privilege of presenting a breakout session on the laws of political and policy structures and fundraising.
I explained that the Citizens United decision was a step in the right direction because it and a subsequent case brought by SpeechNow allow citizens to band together to fund political speech independent of candidates and political parties.
Neither the Citizens United nor the SpeechNow decisions, however, did enough to lessen or eliminate the Byzantine election, tax, and fundraising laws that act as barriers to citizens who want to engage in meaningful political speech and activism.
For example, citizens may now pool together their resources to fund ads for or against candidates. Federal election law, however, defines a political committee as any entity or group of persons who receives or spend more than $1,000 to influence an election.
Political committee status requires initial registration with, then detailed reporting to, the FEC. Heck, it costs more than $1,000 to hire lawyers and buy software and training materials, and $1,000 doesn't even cover costs of compliance with campaign finance law in most cases.
Independent expenditures of more than $200 must be reported to the FEC, with more stringent reporting requirements for independent expenditures over $10,000. That's chicken feed in today's media market. Those reporting requirements are separate from and in addition to the need to register with the FEC as a political committee upon meeting the $1,000 threshold.
SpeechNow, with the skilled legal assistance of the Center for Competitive Politics and the Institute for Justice, is seeking to overturn portions of the rulings that those who band together to fund independent expenditures must also register as political committees with the FEC. The compounded filing requirements are burdensome and unnecessary.
Besides the issues of forming political committees and other tax-exempt entities that may wish to engage in independent expenditures, issue advocacy, get-out-the-vote activities, and voter registration drives, laws regulating fundraising and their reporting requirements are complex.
One of the issues I didn't have time to address at the Virginia Tea Party Convention is how political fundraising disclosure laws discourage participation in the political process. I recently wrote a piece for the National Law Journal entitled "Government Privacy Invasions." In it I describe how government disclosure of private information can be harmful to those who take precautions to protect the privacy of their residential addresses.
Victims of sexual crimes and domestic violence are particularly vulnerable. Victims of rape and others may have heightened interests in supporting the right candidates. Nevertheless, making independent expenditures or even aggregated contributions of more than $200 to any federal candidate (e.g., five $50 contributions) may result not only in your name and residential address becoming public information, but Huffington Post and other sites publishing your address and maps pinpointing exactly where you live.
President Obama and his fellow Democrats who receive vast amounts of corporate money are busy bashing and investigating their big-business critics to intimidate and silence them.
The even bigger disgrace, however, is how political speech laws create barriers for mom-and-pop activists, victims of rape and domestic violence, and everyday citizens new to the political process whose voices should be heard.