Wyoming Liberty Group
Less than a year ago, Norm Eisen, in his capacity as a fellow at the Brookings Institution, convened a campaign finance “Solutions Summit” that brought together a meeting of regulation advocates whose supposed solutions differ about as much as Oxford blue and Midnight blue. It wasn’t a conference; it was a trade show. Around the same time, Eisen co-authored an op/ed repeating an ever-recurring refrain to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which enabled corporations and unions to independently speak out about candidates for office. The vitriol directed at corporations by reformers in the wake of the case is difficult to understate.
But a strange thing happened yesterday: Norm Eisen found a reason to love at least one corporation, Nordstrom.
Be careful where you’re spreading holiday cheer this season. You could wind up in the slammer for six months or pay up to $750 in fines. According to an ordinance approved by the City of Cheyenne in 1897, it’s technically unlawful to Christmas carol without a permit. The 120-year-old law isn’t just a prime example of regulatory nonsense and over-criminalization – it’s a clear violation of protected free speech.
Free political speech is a fundamental individual liberty and American constitutional right. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court said in Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Cent. Committee, “The First Amendment has its fullest and must urgent application to speech uttered during a campaign for political office.” In other words, the constitution’s free speech guarantee exists in order to protect the individual right to speak out about candidates who are actively running for political office. No other type of speech is more important to maintaining a government that is beholden to the people. Political signs in residential areas are an essential tool of political communication. The U.S. Supreme Court also said that there is no practical substitute or alternative to political yard or window signs.
Boyd Wiggam and Doug Randall discussed placing leaflets on car windows, political yard signs and constitutional free speech protection on KGAB. Cheyenne, like many governments, has a history of trying regulation speech. Boyd Wiggam and Doug Randall the recent history of censorship in Cheyenne, the recent discussion about the right of individuals to put flyers or leaflets on car windows, and ongoing complaints about unpopular political yard signs.
Courts repeatedly strike down City Ordinances that violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. This is true even when cities try to justify censorship as a way to improve aesthetics, or fight litter. Even in Wyoming cities are willing to trample on free speech rights. As recently as 2013, the City of Cheyenne had to pay litigation costs in its futile attempt to censor political speech by its ham-fisted regulation of yard signs. The City of Laramie quickly repealed its own political yard sign regulations shortly thereafter.
Free speech is under attack from three main sources around the world.
- Government repression has increased. After the Soviet Union fell, Russia enjoyed a free-for-all. Alas, today Mr. Putin has tightened the muzzle again.
- A number of non-state actors are at that game. Journalists in Mexico who investigate corruption may end up dead. Jihadists shoot French cartoonists.
- Finally, there are people who think they have a right to not be offended, and who expect to use the state – or the university administration – to enforce that right.
Another government attack on free speech is from a coalition of environmental alarmists and law enforcement. It may be more pernicious than the first three because of its subtlety.
Cheyenne has a housing supply and affordability problem. Housing is scarce and expensive relative to household incomes in the area, but current regulations force developers to add unnecessary costs in the name of “aesthetics” to satisfy the architectural taste preferences of regulators. Boyd Wiggam and Doug Randall of KGAB discuss the City Council's rejection of a deregulation proposal that would have saved money for families on a 5-5 vote—even though the regulatory costs are ultimately passed along to the lower-income families that are struggling to find housing that fits within their budgets.