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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

If Donors For Issue Advocacy Can Remain Anonymous, Why Not The Public?

With all the controversy over the Citizens United ruling and Gov. Scott Walker's scandal surrounding his use of taxpayer funded office and employees for his election campaigns, much of the diversion away from Walker's misuse of public office seems to be hinging on the words, issue advocacy vs express advocacy.

Without offering details, Walker continues to insist he's done nothing wrong, assuming though that he is indeed regularly coordinating with issue advocacy groups from the governor's office, but is convinced he is protected by a twisted interpretation of pre-Citizen's United state campaign finance laws.

Issue advocacy properly understood, includes communications by parties or groups intended to further or derail a political issue, legislative proposal or public policy - not to advocate the election or defeat of political candidates.

And ...

Cato Excerpt:
If disclosure of spending on issue ads, i.e. political discourse, were required, how would it be enforced? It could only be enforced by requiring citizen groups to respond to the demands of federal officials for information regarding the times, places, amount, and manner of speech. And it would have the same chilling effect on speech that led the Supreme Court to strike down limits on issue advocacy in Buckley. [ ... ] After all, most speech is, to some extent, intended to influence public opinion. The ensuing chilling effect on speech makes such forced disclosure unconstitutional.

The general rule seems to be that disclosure (identity of donors can remain anonymous) is not required if spending does not call for the election or defeat of a candidate. Somehow they claim, this all falls under protections of the First Amendment. So let's cut to the chase.

People who speak out on issues at local city council, school board or county board meetings are asked to identify themselves and where they live, etc., but isn't that disclosure unconstitutional under these rulings? Doesn't the expectation of that disclosure have a chilling effect on speakers who might otherwise attend? After all, these citizens typically speak out on current relevant issues and almost never about "express advocacy" for or against a political candidate. Clearly, they want to influence public opinion and elected officials on the issues.

So, does it matter who they are or where they live? They could come from Texas or Georgia and speak out about fracking, sand mining, water quality, budget cuts or public school issues in Janesville, Wisconsin. Under these new interpretations, it really shouldn't matter who they are. Their speech is protected.

My question is; Is it issue advocacy money that's protected, or is it issue advocacy speech that is protected under the First Amendment? Can someone point me to the part about money or capital in the first amendment?

1 comment:

Man MKE said...

Well said. Note that many of the nearly million Wisconsin residents who signed recall petitions against Walker have effectively been blacklisted by having their names and histories collated in on-line interactive databases created by conservatives. Real Joe McCarthy type tactics. Nope, OUR speech is an open book; THEIR corporate money-speech is, according to them, rightfully a secret.

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