Video: Camp Politics and free speech

posted at 3:35 pm on September 30, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

My friends at the Institute for Justice have a new project, Protecting Citizen Speech, which defends the First Amendment from government encroachment by politicians looking to protect their incumbencies, and not just on the federal level.  As IJ notes, states impose campaign-finance laws that restrict freedom of speech and association in even more egregious ways than attempted through McCain-Feingold, and are in some ways more difficult to fight.  While some laws attempt to rely more on transparency than restrictions, IJ argues that even those laws result in limitations of political action:

Institute Senior Attorney Bert Gall said, “Freedom of speech is a right, not a privilege to be conditioned, regulated, and doled out in small portions by government bureaucrats.  Yet campaign finance laws across our nation erect needless barriers that punish the most effective speakers.”

For example, in 24 states, citizens who wish to spend money to speak out about ballot issues must register as political committees and navigate a complex maze of regulations.  As a result, a group of citizens in Florida who want to pool their funds to speak out against a controversial amendment that would inhibit development in the state must register with the government, appoint a treasurer, open a separate bank account, and track and report every penny that they raise and spend for their efforts.

Paul Sherman, a staff attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represents the Florida plaintiffs challenging the states campaign finance restrictions, pointed out the real-world harm caused by such government-imposed restrictions on free political speech.  Sherman said, “The individuals we represent want to air a radio ad listing the top five reasons to vote against Florida’s amendment to hamper development, but because of campaign finance disclaimer requirements, they will only have time to list three reasons in the 30 seconds.  The government-mandated disclosure would take up nearly six seconds—one-fifth of the airtime they have to make their point to voters.  This is just one small but tangible example of what’s wrong with campaign finance restrictions and why, if we believe in free speech, they must be challenged in court and defeated.”

The Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit today, Andrew Nathan Worley, et al. v. Dawn K. Roberts, et al. challenging these regulations on behalf of a the group.

We saw one consequence of these requirements yesterday, when Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) demanded that the IRS start looking into political action groups to see whether they comply with ambiguous rules and regulations that restrict political action.  The power to regulate is the power to both silence and pick winners and losers.  Requiring full disclosure is the best policy, but even those mechanisms can be used to intimidate people into remaining out of the debate.

That’s the point made in IJ’s latest video, “Camp Politics,” along with some pointed barbs at other political peccadilloes:

My favorite moment: The Political Apology. The kids in this video are adorable and very enthusiastic about their roles — almost eerily so. They play this game better than some of the adults we have seen over the last few years, but at least in their case, it really is a game. For the rest of us, it’s serious work, and thankfully IJ is doing it.


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Here in Minny they call it Camp Wellstone.

Bruno Strozek on September 30, 2010 at 3:43 PM

Great job kids, now grow up, get registered to vote, and undo some of these stupid restrictions.

fourdeucer on September 30, 2010 at 3:45 PM

I was thinking Camp Pelosi.

50sGuy on September 30, 2010 at 3:45 PM

“Institute Senior Attorney Bert Gall said, “Freedom of speech is a right, not a privilege to be conditioned, regulated, and doled out in small portions by government bureaucrats.”

I agree with this statement, 100%. But then principle, intellectual honesty, and consistency demand that this applies to ALL rights endowed by our creator and enumerated in the Constitution.

Of course, I’m referring to the 2nd Amendment. Any activity by government that impedes or infringes on the right to keep and bear arms, including regulation, violates that fundamental right.

IronDioPriest on September 30, 2010 at 3:47 PM

O/T: I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about this. It’s scary stuff and I hope Palin really takes security seriously.

DrAllecon on September 30, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Merciful GOD, that is frightening. Sorry, it’s just too close to the truth.

oldleprechaun on September 30, 2010 at 4:01 PM

O/T: I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about this. It’s scary stuff and I hope Palin really takes security seriously.

DrAllecon on September 30, 2010 at 3:50 PM

I don’t think we’ll see a lot of press out of it until this guy decides he’s going to impress Jodie Foster by taking a shot at her.

teke184 on September 30, 2010 at 4:02 PM

I loved it, but it saddens me as it is so true.

Teleycoman on September 30, 2010 at 4:10 PM

Do they accept kids as old as 70? Correspondence school? Never too old to learn.

Caststeel on September 30, 2010 at 4:16 PM

I don’t think we’ll see a lot of press out of it until this guy decides he’s going to impress Jodie Foster by taking a shot at her.

teke184 on September 30, 2010 at 4:02 PM

Then I hope we never see a lot of press about it.

DrAllecon on September 30, 2010 at 4:37 PM

Of course, I’m referring to the 2nd Amendment. Any activity by government that impedes or infringes on the right to keep and bear arms, including regulation, violates that fundamental right.

IronDioPriest on September 30, 2010 at 3:47 PM

What if you simply added abortions and members of the press to the legislation on guns?

In order to own a gun, get an abortion or be a member of the press, you must first obtain a permit.
Don’t forget the waiting period. They say 3 days is too short, OK. How about a 9 month waiting period to buy a gun, get an abortion or become a member of the press.
Inappropriate discharge. If you shoot a gun, get an abortion or write and article in an inappropriate manner, you can be arrested and placed in jail.

barnone on September 30, 2010 at 5:02 PM

O/T: I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about this. It’s scary stuff and I hope Palin really takes security seriously.

DrAllecon on September 30, 2010 at 3:50 PM

I don’t think we’ll see a lot of press out of it until this guy decides he’s going to impress Jodie Foster by taking a shot at her.

teke184 on September 30, 2010 at 4:02 PM

This was a treat against Sarah and another woman. Just a person, not a high profile Palinista.

Sarah gets death threats daily. She does have security when she travels outside of Alaska.

gary4205 on September 30, 2010 at 5:41 PM

I finally got home from work to watch, and it’s pretty good. :)

Bob's Kid on September 30, 2010 at 6:58 PM

a group of citizens in Florida who want to pool their funds to speak out against a controversial amendment that would inhibit development in the state must register with the government, appoint a treasurer, open a separate bank account, and track and report every penny that they raise and spend for their efforts.

Sounds like trying to start a snack bar for unit funds if MWR hears about it…

catmman on September 30, 2010 at 7:25 PM