Wyoming Liberty Group
There were a number of developments at this week’s interim meeting of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee of the Wyoming Legislature. Several draft bills suggest potential amendments to Wyoming’s campaign finance laws; some of proposals are good, and some of them are not. I am encouraged that members of the committee, Secretary of State Ed Murray, State Election Director Kai Schon, and Attorney General Peter Michael understand that campaign finance law is not a panacea and can, in fact, damage the political process for everything it supposedly fixes. Nevertheless, some are pushing for enhanced campaign finance “disclosure”—more frequent filing of more forms regarding broader swaths of political speech.
A group called Wyoming Promise has declared the dastardly goal of overturning the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and to open the doors to campaign finance “reform,” or regulating free speech by restricting the money used to pay for it. Wyoming Promise aims to accomplish this by gathering 38,818 signatures to trigger a ballot initiative in the 2018 or 2020 election. This means an intense statewide effort, because Wyoming law requires gathering signatures not just in number but geographically throughout the state. Signatures for censorship; what a depressing idea.
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.
Wyoming’s reform of civil asset forfeiture, which passed unanimously in the 2016 Budget Session, went into effect on July 1. Already, the reform has lived up to its name, which is illustrated by comparing two cash seizure cases—one that began before the reform, and one after.
In the 2016 Budget Session, Senate File 46 passed the Wyoming Legislature without a single vote in opposition. This bill significantly reforms the state’s practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government to seize and keep property that is allegedly related to the illegal drug trade without convicting or even charging the owner of a crime.
In the Fall of 2013, I attended a presentation from the Cheyenne Police Department on marijuana enforcement in the city after Colorado’s enactment of its recreational marijuana law the previous year. Chief Brian Kozak was matter-of-fact, and was not there to advocate but to simply update the audience. This was not, however, the posture of various attendees, and Kozak fielded numerous questions from marijuana advocates that were little more than self-righteous critiques of state laws the chief of police has no authority to change.
In two important rulings from the Texas Supreme Court on April 15, the court assured the effectiveness of the state’s Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), which was enacted in 2011. These cases, AgendaWise v. Abraham and Sullivan v. Abraham, affirmed the dismissal of two defamation actions brought by a public figure against an activist and an online news outlet.