Tuesday, September 09, 2008

and now back to our regularly scheduled blogging

I need to get this blog back on track, and now that things are getting under control, here goes. Yesterday I read that my evidence professor, Federal District Court Judge Dee Benson made a ruling that I strenuously disagree with. I wrote about this case earlier, describing James Bopp's Free Speech argument to be nothing more than the right to make stuff up. That is, somehow Bopp believes that the First Amendment gives corporations the right to lie to the public by hiding behind sham groups with the words Americans or Citizens and maybe something about puppies and apple pie.
Benson ruled in favor of the National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation Inc., saying it did not expressly advocate for or against schools vouchers in ads it ran during last year's referendum campaign.
State law is valid so long as it is narrowly applied, Benson wrote. Also, he said Utah's definition of a Political Issues Committee was too vague, and "runs the risk of regulating far too much ordinary political speech."
Huh? First off, the law requires that if you form a political issue committee and you receive donations and plan on using that money to run ads via mail, tv, radio, etc. you need to disclose who gave you how much. That's not exactly ordinary political speech, like my blog or me talking to my friends about the Palin pick.

Second, why are groups like National Right to Work, a corporately funded anti-union shop, so afraid to disclose who donates to them. If giving money and spending money is speech like Bopp has claimed before, then why does he seek to muzzle these speakers?

I also believe that context is important, so here is the ad that Virginia based front group ran on tv and radio.
"Recently, teacher union officials have launched a statewide political blitz in Utah's public schools," began the ads. "Their goal? To sabotage a popular new law meant to improve the quality of education for Utah's children."
Let's see, I recall that lots of non-teacher's union members, myself included, signed the petition to get the referendum on the ballot. And while teachers unions provided lots of funding to organize against the bill, the law was extremely unpopular with Utahns from the very beginning, which is why it was able to get on the ballot and was voted down in every single county in the state.

Can anyone claim with a straight face that the corporations and the teachers unions and voucher ideologues put out those ads for the sake of political discussion rather than in an attempt to influence voters? Maybe James Bopp can, but he's lying. Maybe the political issues committee laws need to be revamped to be more clear, like lots of other laws, but I would rather have another crew do the tweaking rather than the current crop of legislators who act entitled to all of the power and privileges they bestow upon themselves.

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