Monday, January 01, 2007

Free Speech, eh?

"How does one know when the critical point in a Republic's loss of its basic liberties like freedom of speech has been passed? A Dec. 22 notice from the Federal Election Commission looks very much like that point for America.

The notice concerned a complaint the FEC received from one Sydnor Thompson that Kirk Shelmerdine had improperly committed an independent expenditure on behalf of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign during the 2004 race."
Now, before continuing with excerpts from Tapscott's report, let's put the story in context. Not long ago, Congress "reformed" campaign finance statutes, the President signed, and then there was a further review by the Supreme Court which said the reforms were constitutional. This story falls within the rubric of those "constitutional" campaign finance reforms.

Here is more of the story:
"When he committed the independent expenditure, Shelmerdine had none of the big-time sponsors normally associated with front-line NASCAR drivers like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. In fact, Shelmerdine had no significant sponsors at all during the four races in which he raced during 2004 while committing that independent expenditure.

Here's how Shelmerdine described himself and his reasons for putting the Bush-Cheney 04 bumper sticker on his race car:

"I put the decals that are the subject of this complaint on the car solely because I thought that doing so would bring attention to the car and publicity for me and the car.

"It was not my intention, in any manner, to be a supporter of President Bush or to influence the Presidential election.

"I am not a registered voter. I have never been actively involved in politics.
I have not publicly endorsed or aided any politician. I have never contributed any money or considerations of any kind to any politician, Political Action Committee, etc.

The decals that were placed on the car would cost and have a value of
$50.00 or less."

The truth is, Shelmerdine's independent expenditure might have been seen by a handful of people outside the pits.

But don't worry, the FEC magnanimously declined to bring down the full weight of the law on Shelmerdine for this dastardly act of plastering a single bumper sticker on a race car that hardly anyone saw.

No, the FEC graciously and mercifully settled on sending a mere "admonishment" to Shelmerdine. After all, as soon as he knew about the FEC action against him, Shelmerdine "out of an abundance of caution" took the bumper sticker off his race car."
I'm sure glad Congress reformed campaign finance because we can't take the chance that some race car will have a political bumper sticker on it.

On the other hand, just consider all the things that government might choose to say is "an independent expenditure on behalf of a political campaign." Maybe I should exercise "an abundance of caution" and stop writing about public policy? After all, either supporting or opposing any public policy is bound to sound like supporting or opposing some politician running for office, and certainly writing in support or opposition is at least an expenditure of time and we all know "time is money."

By the way, who said the constitution protects free speech?

[via Instapundit]

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