Wyoming Liberty Group
CHEYENNE, Wy. – On February 8, Wyoming Liberty Group submitted a friend-of-the-court (amicus curiae) brief for consideration by the Wyoming Supreme Court in the case Hill v. Stubson, arguing that the court should affirm the dismissal of a defamation case brought by former Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill against former Wyoming Representative Tim Stubson. Defamation cases relate to false statements about a person for which that person can seek damages in court.
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.
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.