Wyoming Liberty Group
Although many excellent bills in the 2015 Legislative Session did not become law—asset forfeiture reform, drone regulation, and RS2477 rights of way, to name a few—a number of excellent amendments to the Wyoming Election Code passed and were signed by Governor Mead. Given the campaign finance “reform” efforts nationwide that amount to little more than censorship by red tape (or even more direct efforts), one could describe the 2015 session as a political speech boogaloo.
On Friday the Institute for Justice (IJ) won an important free speech victory against the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). IJ charitably refers to the PDC as “bullies.” I think a more apt description of the PDC is “free-speech-hating thugs.” Following a victory against such opposition, gloating is not only appropriate, but perhaps necessary.
January 21st is a special anniversary for the Wyoming Liberty Group. It marks the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United opinion. The Wyoming Liberty Group played a unique role as friends of the court in that case, helping the Court adopt a much stronger opinion than expected.
Since the Court issued its opinion in Citizens United, it remains one of its most controversial rulings. Even five years later, reform groups clamor to, amazingly, amend the First Amendment, enhance disclosure of political spending, and otherwise “correct” Citizens United. Even moderate Republicans are getting chummy with pre-Citizen United ideas of regulating any speech that moves. This all happens, in large part, because of a deeply rooted confusion about what Citizens United means.
With last week’s tragedy in France, it is important to pause and reflect on the importance of that most inimical of liberties, free speech. It is with fortune that America is not a regular witness to physical retaliation when dissident and unorthodox ideas are communicated. However, our national cultural and legal respect for free speech slowly dwindles. Its demise is not difficult to trace.
In late September I submitted comments to the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information (“A&I”) opposing two proposed changes to the State of Wyoming Personnel Rules. My memo discussed two vague and overbroad provisions, one which could lead to unconstitutional abridgements of free speech and the other which unequivocally punished applicants for merely associating with people who say the wrong things about the government:
As Wyoming and other states consider expanding the reach of campaign finance laws to capture “dark money,” some consideration of what’s happening in Chicago is helpful. Aggressive campaign finance regulations, touted as combatting corruption, allow for easy manipulation of the law.
We learned last week that Rahm Emanuel pulled in $400,000 in campaign contributions to his mayoral campaign due to an obscure part of Illinois campaign finance law. Under Illinois law, when wealthy candidates self-finance their campaigns with $100,000 or more in local races, contribution limits are eliminated for every opponent.
It’s that time of year again. Election Day is more and more like Groundhog Day for campaign finance reformers. Their legend goes like this: if sizeable amounts of money are spent on political speech there will be years of corruption and ruin ahead. Over at the Nation, Zoë Carpenter is complaining that “old white guys” are buying our elections. Others warn of an impending “stealth oligarchy” forming right under our noses. Hogwash.