T Nation

Assault on Free Speech


#1

This time, led from the Republican side of the aisle.

They are pushing for increased regulation of 527 organizations -- you know, like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and MoveOn.org.

The House passed the bill described in this article today:

http://www.thehill.com/thehill/export/TheHill/Business/040506_527.html

I don't believe the Senate has acted yet.

To quote from the Club For Growth weblog:

[i]"This bill is purely anti-free speech in concept, and radically extends speech regulation. If Congress can regulate such speech for 527s, it can regulate any kind of speech by any nonprofit group, group of individuals, corporation or union.

If this becomes the law of the land, there is no logical case against stopping more regulations on any or all entities should Congress choose to do so. And if they succeed here, they will. It is only a matter of time. From BCRA to today?s vote only took four years. Why bother amending the constitution to remove free speech if the salami slicer works so quickly?

That means this is a landmark bill, unfortunately. ALL previous speech regulation was grounded in these concepts:

  1. The speech contains express advocacy for or against a candidate.
    or
  2. The speech is coordinated with or funded by a candidate or a party.
    or
  3. The speech is funded by corporations or labor unions.

The speech regulated by this bill does not fall into either category. That is what makes it so radical.

This bill launches a whole new attack on the First Amendment into territory never before explored. It gets us sliding rapidly down the slippery slope after which there will be no stopping regulation of speech by citizens."[/i]

What's truly ridiculous and disheartening is how the two parties flip-flopped on the issue of speech regulation, purely on grounds of political expediency. The Republicans are out to regulate 527s because of how much George Soros gave last time around. The Dems are for them for the same reason.

Only a few isolated representatives were actually defending free speech. If they really cared about free speech, they would overturn all the campaign finance regulations immediately, and replace them solely with disclosure laws (i.e., candidates would need to immediately disclose the source of contributions, and individuals/corporations/unions would need to immediately disclose making contributions).

I can only hope that if this passes, the newly reconstituted USSC would take this opportunity to overturn both this law and Buckley v. Valeo.


#2

Howabout some information on what they are actually proposing, instead of pure hyperbole and alarmism?


#3

What's truly ridiculous and disheartening is how the two parties flip-flopped on the issue of speech regulation, purely on grounds of political expediency. The Republicans are out to regulate 527s because of how much George Soros gave last time around. The Dems are for them for the same reason.

This is disgusting. Neither party has any conscience or backbone.

They sell out the Constutition all the time to obtain or retain power.


#4

How would you know if it's hyperbole or alarmism if you don't know anything about what is proposed?

Anyway, here is a link to the bill:

http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:BIhrzhl3914J:www.ombwatch.org/Watcher/hr513.pdf+%22H.R.+513%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=5&client=firefox-a

I would encourage you to look into it for yourselves.


#5

I know your penchant for sources that agree with your viewpoint, but, more so, the language used was kind of a giveaway.


#6

....And this surprises you why?

Sometimes, I like to think that our country is the truly of the people. But when it comes down to it, its nothing more than the same shit the world has seen for thousands of years.


#7

So, other than your personal biases, as of yet you still have no reasons then?


#8

Elections and election related entities have already got a lot of restrictions imposed on them.

I'd like to have a better idea concerning the implication of the changes before I decide they are good or bad.

Saying this is the biggest danger to free speech since sliced bread leaves me skeptical.


#9

Tell you what: It's the biggest danger to free speech since McCain-Feingold.


#10

And that is an example of hyperbole or alarmism. Where is the supporting discussion to help back these claims?

It may very well be, but reviewing the document above didn't make it clear as to how and why.


#11

Once again: How do you figure it's hyperbole and alarmism if you don't know anything about it?

Here's a Washington Post article on the bill:

Here's a copy of a letter Club for Growth sent to Congressman Boehner, which is pretty good:

http://www.clubforgrowth.org/blog/archives/037879.php

[i]Boehner's Office Spreading FALSE Information About 527 Bill

(We just faxed the following letter ? slightly edited for HTML ? to Boehner?s office.)

April 5, 2006

The Honorable John Boehner
Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-107, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Leader:

I am greatly disappointed in your press office?s misinformation about the so-called ?527 Reform Act? (H.R. 513). Your office has a responsibility to publish accurate information about a bill you sponsor and promote, yet this posting on your website is riddled with false and misleading information.

Claim: "[It] is a bill designed to close loopholes created by the overhaul of campaign finance laws in 2002. It does not create new rules or regulations, but rather will require 527 groups to comply with the same disclosure requirements and other campaign finance laws that apply to political parties and political action committees."

Fact: The claim is false because it does create new laws, and creates criminal penalties for their violations, that apply to speech by citizen groups that do not work for the election or defeat of any candidate.

Further, this claim is false because the First Amendment is not a loophole. The 2002 act specifically excluded regulation of speech that was not:

* express advocacy or
* coordinated with candidates or parties or
* aired on broadcast outlets by corporations or labor unions within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary.

Congress made a conscious decision in 2002 to not regulate speech on issues beyond 60 days of an election. My understanding is that you voted against that bill in part because you thought that its restrictions on speech were too draconian. This bill is far more restrictive as it would regulate speech by many citizen groups 365 days a year in any medium, not just broadcast outlets.

It is false because the bill does not apply the same laws as those applied to political parties to citizen groups whose speech would be repressed by this bill. It does not allow citizen groups to raise $25,000 per year for express advocacy or issue advocacy, as allowed to parties. It does not allow candidates to raise $25,000 for citizen groups, as allowed to parties. It does not allow citizen groups to benefit from subsidized postal rates, as allowed to parties. It subjects citizen donations to citizen groups to stricter overall biennial limits on giving.

It is misleading because current law already applies essentially identical disclosure requirements to 527 groups as applies to PACs or party committees through regular reports by these groups to the IRS.

Claim: "Many members who expressed concerns about the 2002 law believed it would create new loopholes and push dollars out of the transparent process that existed into a new world with little to no disclosure. That is exactly what happened, and that?s why the 527 Reform Act closes this loophole."

Fact: This claim is false. Groups covered by H.R. 513 already make extensive disclosures. A 2000 law requires 527 groups covered by H.R. 513 to disclose all donors over $200 per year ? the exact same threshold requirement for candidates, PACs and party committees. Expenditures must also be disclosed.

Ironically, it is H.R. 513 that would push dollars out of the transparent process that exists today for 527 groups into 501-c groups or for profit groups where there is either no disclosure or very limited disclosure of donations and expenditures.

I won't address the other points in your press office?s statement about soft money as we did not support the 2002 act. However, I believe that most fair observers would agree there is clearly a distinction between so-called soft money raised in unlimited amounts by elected officials and candidates from corporations and labor unions and money voluntarily donated by citizens to citizen groups without assistance from elected officials, candidates or party committees. H.R. 513 would make many such donations to citizen groups illegal.

Republicans profess a belief in limited and constitutional government. H.R. 513 is the most outrageous attack on free speech in decades. If you believe, as you did in 2002, that BCRA contained too much regulation on party committees, the proper response is more freedom for the parties ? not repression of American citizens. The best way to do this is to back the bill sponsored by Reps. Pence and Wynn instead of your proposal to drastically limit the constitutional rights of Americans. Each new attack on our free speech leads to more restrictions on speech.

We call on you to take down this publication on your web site as I am sure it is not your intent to mislead members of the House and the public. We call on you to return to your belief in limited and constitutional government and to faithfully execute your oath of office to "support this Constitution."

Sincerely,

David Keating
Executive Director[/i]


Here is a National Review editorial against the bill:

http://www.nationalreview.com/editorial/editors200604040842.asp

I expect there will be more if and when the Senate picks it up.


#12

Vroom... you are being unusually contentious considering that BB is alarmed by a Republican bill.


#13

Boston,

What part of what I'm saying don't you understand? I'm not saying it is false, not a problem, not true or anything like that.

However, the PRESENTATION of the information, was in fact hyperbole and alarmism. This is because no real facts or details were given to support the claims.

If what you've quoted now provides some information, such that we can really tell what is going on, and why it may or may not be the end of the world, then we'll know if such language is justified.

See? I haven't been judging the issue or commenting on the merits of it, because I'm waiting for more details.


#14

....soooo, could we all quit arguing about the symmantics of the article and maybe WRITE A LETTER TO OUR SENATORS BEGGING THEM TO DESTROY THIS FLAMING PIECE OF SHIT LAW?

Sheesh, BB and vroom finally agree about something, and they fine something completely pointless to argue about.

....seriously, hilarious, but sad. :wink:


#15

I'm a lawyer, what do you expect?

vroom, on the other hand, is just inherently evil. =-)


#16

Shouldn't a lawyer at least be able to make an argument? :stuck_out_tongue:

You need to watch A Few Good Men some more... oh wait, Tom Cruise is on the verbotten list these days.


#17

Nice try but no cigar. For every George Soros there is a Richard Mellon Scaife (billionaire media mogul who funds far right groups). I'd bet that the right wing think tanks and activist groups are better funded than the left wing's.

You're just parroting Rush Limbaugh and other right wing talking heads. You wouldn't even know Soros' name, if he wasn't the right wing's designated whipping boy.

Prove me wrong, by telling me that you honestly hear as much about Scaife as you do about Soros.


#18

Show me his donations vs Soros. Everything I have seen indicates the Democrats got much more out of the 527s than the Republicans.

Prove me wrong. I would love to see the credible numbers because I don't have them.

I know locally they reported that Kerry benefited from almost twice the number of TV ads due to 527s.


#19

It is no secret that Democrats made their living from soft money much more than Repblicans have in the past, and 527s are stealth vehicles for recapturing the soft money slowed down by CFR.

This is not news. As for think tanks, that is not the issue - we are talking about money that goes to political campaigns and candidates.

As for Soros - anyone who pays attention knows about this guy. His famous - or infamous - history of nearly bankrupting England's bank and the lawsuit he lost in France make him a fairly public figure.