Tuesday, July 01, 2008

the right to make stuff up?

Free speech. Despite popular belief, the First Amendment doesn't allow the speaker to say anything with impunity. Justice Holmes put it best when he wrote, "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic." Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 52 (1919). Yet corporatations and their voucher supporting front groups continue to believe otherwise.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, Inc., aired television and radio ads during last year's voucher referendum process, offering free legal services to anyone who was illegally coerced into signing petitions supporting the referendum. However, they led the ads with statements that showed they supported the voucher law and were against the effort to overturn it through a ballot question.
State law says that anyone who influences voters must file a disclosure of funds used to do so. The group did not file, and when informed of the need to do so, it refused, arguing that Utah's law is too vague and inhibits free political speech.
"That would make everything campaign-related then, including conversations . . . about political issues," argued James Bopp Jr., who represented the foundation. He said if the ads had clearly told voters to vote for or against vouchers, the foundation would have disclosed its funding.
Bopp has repeatedly attempted to argue that financial disclosure rules in campaign finance laws are somehow unconstitutional. Yet, repeatedly, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to agree (well, they never addressed it even though Bopp brought it up). In fact, Bopp won Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC (WRTL II) just last year and his allies won Davis v. FEC a few days ago, both time the court struck down portions of McCain-Feingold/BCRA/McConnell v. FEC (the blackout period for WRTL II and the Millioniare's Amendment for Davis), but not the statute's disclosure requirements.

I have met Bopp and he is, to put it gently, an overly zealous and unnecessarily rude advocate for his cause. He worked for Romney over McCain in the primary. And this case, while full of crap (According to Bopp, requiring disclosure for political TV ads means that you can't speak in public about politics without filing with the LG? Come on!), deserves a close watching. Clearly, it is Bopp's plan to take this baby all the way up to the Supremes. And this time, give corporations and their laykeys the right under the First Amendment to say one thing in an attack ad, without the public knowing who is bankrolling a group such as "Americans for Nuclear Waste Fuel Storage" ... Or "The National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, Inc.," a anti-labor pro-voucher group.

1 comment:

Andrew Green said...

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