October 01, 2006
George Will on Censorship of Political Speech
George Will highlights Washington's censoring speech by court order in Newsweek. He is not covering the State Public Disclosure Commission's announcement Thursday that the wrong people are financing campaigns. See Interest groups have taken over elections, panel fears. They are just warming up; watch them.
No. He is talking about the successful efforts last year by several cities to shut up talk radio hosts when they threaten tax revenues. Successful? Yes. After the judge ruled that their speech for I-912 counted as capaign contributions John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur were able to keep talking because it was an issue, not a candidate. There is no spending limit for issues (Will says there is during the last 3 weeks), but there is for candidates. So talk-show hosts are prevented from enthusiastically covering a candidate like Carlson and Wilbur did I-912. And he certainly slowed them down; a court order against one tends to cause caution.
SEATTLE--As the comprehensive and sustained attack on Americans' freedom of political speech intensifies, this city has become a battleground. Campaign-finance "reformers," who advocate ever-increasing government regulation of the quantity, timing and content of political speech, always argue that they want to regulate "only" money, which, they say, leaves speech unaffected. But here they argue that political speech is money, and hence must be regulated. By demanding that the speech of two talk-radio hosts be monetized and strictly limited, reformers reveal the next stage in their stealthy repeal of the First Amendment.
This is the America produced by "reformers" led by John McCain. The U.S. Supreme Court, in affirming the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold speech restrictions, advocated deference toward elected officials when they write laws regulating speech about elected officials and their deeds. This turned the First Amendment from the foundation of robust politics into a constitutional trifle to be "balanced" against competing considerations--combating the "appearance of corruption," or elevating political discourse or something. As a result, attempts to use campaign regulations to silence opponents are becoming a routine part of vicious political combat.
Posted by Ron Hebron at October 01, 2006
05:05 PM | Email This
1. Indeed. Those interested in learning more about "The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform" should read Bradley A. Smith's book "Unfree Sppech." The PDC rules are as complicated as the IRS code resulting in the prosecution of those who lack the resources to hire attorneys to navigate through the maze.
It wasn't just Democrats or cities who filed that stupid lawsuit against Kirby and Carlson on KVI and I-912 - there were Republicans who signed on too. And it was backed by the No on 912 campaign that included many of the state's leading businesses.
I-912 was stupid and wasteful. But the lawsuit to abridge free speech was dangerous as well as really dumb. Carlson, Kirby and KVI are right to fight it.
I would say that it was the gas tax that was stupid and wasteful rather than I-912. The state of Washington has just gotten too looney (especially Seattle and King County). They seem to continually find new ways to waste transportation money (Sound Transit, the Monorail project, the bus tunnel that was set up with the wrong rails so that they have to refit it to bring in trains, the crazy mayor's dream of a tunnel to replace the viaduct (let's see if we can outspend Boston's Big Dig). All of this idiocy is a major reason why I moved out of the state in June.
4. Cases like the one involving Carlson and Wilbur are exactly what is needed to lay bare the the ridiculus hairsplitting the US Supremes used to justify allowing the campiagn reform legislation to stand. When the I-912 case was originally decided I thought it properly interpreted the law as it now stands and properly stated that Carlson and Wilbur were in fact agents for the I-912 campaign. Hopefully this case and others that Mr. Will cites will make it to the Supreme Court and they will be forced to reverse themselves.
5. Carlson's harping on I-912 was just resume padding. He used it to cash in. Now Sound Transit is paying him to pimp ST2. That is a FAR more wasteful tax grab than the 9.5 cent gas tax increase, and Sound Transit is two orders of magnitude less accountable than WSDOT. Does Carlson see any hypocracy in his new role as shill for Sound Transit? No way Jose. bit . . ..
6. Would that be John "Keating five" McCain?
How were Kirby and John "agents for the I-912 campaign"?
Please read the staute:
Section 15 (b)
(b) "Contribution" does not include:
(i) Standard interest on money deposited in a political committee's account;
(ii) Ordinary home hospitality;
(iii) A contribution received by a candidate or political committee that is returned to the contributor within five business days of the date on which it is received by the candidate or political committee;
(iv) A news item, feature, commentary, or editorial in a regularly scheduled news medium that is of primary interest to the general public, that is in a news medium controlled by a person whose business is that news medium, and that is not controlled by a candidate or a political committee;
What Kirby and John did was provide commentary or editorial that is of primary interest to the general public.....black letter law. What the judge did was a prime example of legislating from the bench because he didn't like the message. A very dangerous decision from a very dangerous judge.
8. More of this kind of stuff will likely happen if the Dems get back into power. It is dangerous and erodes the First Amendment and judges who legislate from the bench like that should be subject to the wrath of the public. If all else fails, notify Bill O'Reilly.
John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur were activists for I-912. Anyone with enough remaining brain cells to make a rational decision should be able to tell from listening to their endless talk on the issue that what they were doing went completely past what could be concidered commentary by journalists on a news program. Drawing a line between commentary and activism in this case was not necessary do to the fact that they overstepped any reasonable line that could be drawn.
Commentary aside they also recruited and organised volunteers (both on and off the air) for the effort which is not listed as not being a contribution.
"John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur were activists for I-912". How were they "activists". Discussing political topics is their business in talk radio. Anyone with enough remaining brain cells can easily see that.
Please site where they overstepped the bounds because all they were doing was advocating a postion.
As to your assertion that "they also recruited and organised volunteers (both on and off the air) for the effort.." that is blatently false. They told people where to go to sign petitions. They mentioned the website and told listeners where to go to get petitions (Kinkos).
As to what they did off the air...that is irrelevent. They are private citizens and are allowed to volunteer their time which is not a contribution.
Again...everything they did falls under the relevent RCW which "anybody with enough remaining brain celss to make a rational decision should be able to tell".
What the judge did was blatent disregard for the law because he didn't like the message. That judge should be reprimanded for his conduct IMHO because judges like that are dangerous to a free society.
ANY limits on political speech are un-American, contrary to the 1st amendment, and highly dangerous. This includes so-called "fairness doctrines" and campaign contribution limits. They should be unconstitutional on their face.
The fact that the Supreme Court doesn't see things this way is very troubling. When our elected officials are allowed to pass laws restricting the citizens' ability to attempt to replace them at the next election, we have sown the seeds of tyrany. Tyrany is a hardy weed, and thrives and spreads unless constantly pruned. Our garden is a mess.
Sorry to be so pessimistic. You can all go back to watching American Idol now.