IJ Scores Major Legal Victory for Free Speech

November 10, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Karen Sampson and her Colorado neighbors just won a serious victory for liberty.

In a unanimous decision on Tuesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Colorado’s disclosure laws for grassroots political groups.  This is a big deal.  As the Associated Press put it, “The issue is ripe for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The federal appellate court held that Karen and her neighbors in the tiny subdivision of Parker North, Colo., should not have been forced to register with the government and comply with burdensome campaign finance laws simply for opposing a ballot issue involving the annexation of their neighborhood.

I wrote previously at Big Government that Karen and her neighbors opposed an effort to annex their town into a neighboring city because it would raise their taxes without providing them benefits.  So they printed up fliers and yard signs.  And then they got sued.

Under what basis?  Colorado’s campaign finance laws, which state that any group of individuals that spends over $ 200 magically becomes an “issue committee” that is forced to register with the state.  Further, they had to track and report all their “contributions” and “expenditures” and disclose the identities of anyone who gave them money.

The result?  People took down their yard signs and stopped passing out fliers.

In 2008, a federal court upheld the lawsuit against Karen and her neighbors while admitting that Colorado’s campaign finance laws “had the effect of stifling political speech in violation of the First Amendment.”  The Institute for Justice appealed and, on Tuesday, secured victory.

Federal Judge Harris L. Hartz wrote in Tuesday’s opinion:

The average citizen cannot be expected to master on his or her own the many campaign financial-disclosure requirements set forth in Colorado’s constitution, the Campaign Act, and the Secretary of State’s Rules Concerning Campaign and Political Finance.

Increasing numbers of people are coming to realize that the burdens of campaign finance laws are enough to  silence speakers.  Consider a recent study by campaign finance expert Dr. Jeffrey Milyo, Campaign Finance Red Tape.  He asked 255 people to comply with Colorado’s registration and disclosure laws.  Guess how many managed to figure it out?

Not one.

The average score was just 41 percent.  In real life, each person could have been subject to fines and penalties.  After sifting through the mounds of confusing red tape, the participants felt that the campaign finance laws were “Worse than the IRS!” and had the effect of discouraging involvement in politics.

The bottom line is that the only thing Americans should need in order to speak out about politics is an opinion.   The right to talk and participate in local politics is at the core of what the First Amendment was designed to protect.  Campaign finance laws don’t just affect politicians—they restrict everybody’s speech, silencing the grassroots through red tape, regulations and punishment for speaking.

Thankfully, the judges in Karen’s lawsuit were engaged and took their job of protecting rights seriously.  As IJ President Chip Mellor said:

This is yet another example of an important judicial trend the Institute for Justice has advocated since our founding—that of judicial engagement.  Judges are becoming rightfully more engaged in defending vital rights and striking down laws that exceed constitutionally enshrined limits on legislative powers.

Bookmark IJ’s free speech blog, and join our conversation at facebook, twitter and You Tube.

Big Government

GLAD to announce a “major federal lawsuit” tomorrow

November 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders — the Boston-based legal advocacy group that successfully litigated the Kerrigan case that brought same-sex marriage to Connecticut — will file what it calls a “major federal lawsuit” tomorrow.

Is this a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act? The group isn’t saying. A press conference with GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonuato and the plaintiffs is planned for tomorrow morning.
I am betting GLAD is glad it isn’t making its announcement today, given that most of the Connecticut news media is preoccupied with two huge stories; the Steven Hayes death sentence and the latest developments in the never-ending governor’s race.

Capitol Watch

Shortly After Major Bush Donor Takes Over MSNBC, Network Selectively Applies Rules To Suspend Olbermann

November 5, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Earlier today, MSNBC declared that it would be suspending progressive host Keith Olbermann because he violated NBC’s ethics rules by donating to three Democratic candidates for Congress. As many bloggers have noted, conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough has donated to Republican candidates for Congress while promoting the same candidate on air, but has never been disciplined. Moreover, Gawker notes that MSNBC has been exempt from the formal NBC ethics rules for years. It is still a mystery why MSNBC selectively applied NBC’s ethics rules to Olbermann. However, it important to realize that MSNBC has undergone a fundamental change in leadership in the last two months.

Late last year, Comcast — the nation’s largest cable provider and second largest Internet service provider — inked a deal taking over NBC Universal, the parent company of MSNBC. Comcast moved swiftly to reshuffle MSNBC’s top staff. On September 26th of this year, Comcast announced perhaps the most dramatic shift, replacing longtime MSNBC chief Jeff Zucker with Comcast executive Steve Burke. Burke has given generous amounts to both parties — providing cash to outgoing Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) as well as to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and other top Republicans. But as Public Citizen has noted, Burke has deep ties to the Republican Party. Public Citizen’s report reveals that Burke served as a key fundraiser to President George Bush, and even served on Bush’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology:

Comcast – the country’s largest provider of cable TV and broadband Internet services – has increased its political giving along with its mergers and acquisitions. CEO Brian Roberts was a co-chairman of the host committee at the 2000 Republican Convention. Comcast Cable President Stephen Burke has raised at least $ 200,000 for Bush’s re-election campaign. […] Comcast’s political giving has increased along with its mergers and acquisitions. The company was a “platinum sponsor” at the 2000 GOP convention, and Roberts was a co-chairman of the host committee at the Philadelphia event. Burke was appointed to the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology in 2002.

Why would Comcast be interested in silencing progressive voices? Historically, Comcast has boosted its profits by buying up various telecommunication and media content companies — instead of providing faster Internet or better services (overall, American broadband services are far slower than in many industrialized nations). Many of these mergers, as Public Citizen and Free Press have reported, have been allowed by regulators because of Comcast’s considerable political muscle. Comcast’s latest regulatory battle has been to oppose Net Neutrality — a rule allowing a free and open Internet — because the company would prefer to have customers pay for preferred online content.

Olbermann has been a strong voice in favor of a free and open Internet. Republicans, on the other hand, have supported the telecommunication industry’s push to radically change the Internet so corporate content producers have the upper hand over start-ups like blogs, independent media, small businesses, etc. As Reuters has reported, the incoming Republican Congress has signaled that it will vigorously side with companies like Comcast against an open Internet.

It is not clear why MSNBC has selectively suspended Olbermann indefinitely without pay — but the move showcases the limits of the corporate media. While modern technology has created a seeming multitude of entertainment and television choices, the reality of corporate media consolidation has resulted in fewer investigative news options and less voices in the media with a critical perspective on powerful business interests. Olbermann has stood out as a voice for working people in a media universe dominated by “reality television” and business lobbyists posing as political pundits. It is unfortunate that Comcast and MSNBC have chosen to suspend him.


Major anti-tax measures fail

November 3, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

New York (CNNMoney.com) – Voters in several states defeated major anti-tax measures on Tuesday, acknowledging that their financially-strapped governments need revenue to provide services.

A trio of controversial tax initiatives in Colorado failed, as did an effort to slash sales taxes in Massachusetts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This comes amid a wave of anti-incumbent fervor that swept Republicans to victory in the U.S. House of Representatives.

CNN Political Ticker

AGW Today: Study Points Out Democrats Are Major League Dupes

November 2, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Al Reuters finally gets around to mentioning a global warming attitudes study, and finds something funny

Democrats are not only more prone to think that global warming is happening but they are also much more apt to worry about it than independents and Republicans.

As theaccompanying graphsshow, 81 percent of Democrats think global warming is happening, compared to 57 percent of independents and 47 percent of Republicans.

When asked what is causing the Earth to warm, 68 percent of Democrats attributed it to human activities, while 51 percent of independents and 33 percent of Republicans had that same response.

A third section of the newly released numbers reveals that 78 percent of Democrats are very or somewhat worried about global warming. That compares to 52 percent of independents and 32 percent of Republicans.

That’s easily explained. Democrats have to have something to demonize and worry about. It’s what they live for. Blaming natural processes wouldn’t give them their opportunity to pitch a snit fit, and, wouldn’t give them the chance to not only attempt to control people, companies, and the economy, but, redistribute other people’s money, particularly into their own pockets.

Also, Democrats are complete sheep, who prefer to just follow what their leaders tell them, without thought, regardless of the fact that their leaders are complete climate hypocrites. But, really, Democrats worries really do not lead them to actually change their behavior, because in Liberal World, it is about intentions, not results. And they too can soon play a game on their computers (which are bad for the climate, ya know)

The world’s politicians have, so far, done a perfectly crap job of dealing with climate change. The bold promises of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which led to the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), have yet to be fulfilled. Kyoto Protocol or no Kyoto Protocol, global carbon emissions keep on rising. The globe is getting steadily hotter. Species of animals and plants keep going extinct. The shift towards a cleaner, greener energy supply is happening far too slowly. And there’s little expectation that the UN climate change summit in Cancun at the end of the year will turn things around.

But maybe you can do a better job! That’s the challenge game designers Red Redemption are laying down. They’re coming out with a new PC game (with a Mac version to follow soon) called, not very subtly, Fate of the World. The global strategy game puts players in charge of a World Trade Organization-style global body that has the task responding to rapid climate change and pushing the world towards cleaner energy.

Isn’t that awesome? Climate alarmists can pretend to actually Do Something, without actually Doing Something.

Pirate’s Cove

Dem Rep insists global warming a major nat’l-security threat

November 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Channeling Barbara Boxer.

By “Dem Rep,” Hot Air readers already know I mean Betty McCollum, the Congresswoman from Minnesota’s 4th CD. Usually, McCollum sounds a lot more like Nancy Pelosi, but in her debate with Teresa Collett on October 21st, McCollum began channeling her inner Barbara Boxer.  While dismissing al-Qaeda as a threat to our national security, McCollum […]

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Hot Air » Top Picks

Major Media Far More Interested in Jon Stewart’s Rally Than Glenn Beck’s

October 29, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Journalists are practically giddy in anticipation of this weekend's Jon Stewart rally on the National Mall. The Rally's staff has recieved more than 1,000 requests for press credentials for the event. Only 400 were given out.

Those statistics underscore just how much the media loves Stewart's leftist message (and it is a leftist message). For some perspective, consider that the September 12, 2010 Tea Party on the Mall received roughly 150 requests for press credentials, according to FreedomWorks, which sponsored the event.

read more

NewsBusters.org – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

Clueless AFP Portrays Coffee Party as a Major Political Force

October 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Somebody should send a message to the absolutely clueless AFP (Agence France-Presse) news agency: the Coffee Party today is about as signficant a political force as the Prohibition Party. However, in this AFP story by Edouard Guihaire the Coffee Party,  which pretty much died almost at birth, is portrayed as a major political force on a par with the Tea Party. Perhaps Guihaire is new to America and has not woken up to the sad reality of the moribund Coffee Party which even our own liberal mainstream media has given up covering after an initial flurry of hype at the beginning of the year. So here is AFP laughably trying to convince its readers about the incredible political significance of the Whig… I mean Coffee…Party:

WOODBRIDGE, Virginia — A progressive infusion in US politics, the Coffee Party is brewing a strong counter-movement to the ultra-conservative Tea Party, just a week ahead of the US legislative elections.

Born in January in reaction to the bashing President Barack Obama's proposed health care reform was getting in Congress and the media, the Coffee Party first took shape on Facebook.

"It started on my personal Facebook page," said party founder Annabel Park, a small, soft spoken woman with a strong character.

read more

NewsBusters.org – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

“Huge” gains: AP poll has GOP ahead on all major issues, viewed favorably by … 52%

October 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 


Like Ace says, the eyepopper is the favorables. The last time Gallup had the GOP over 50 percent was … 2005; not even in the supercharged atmosphere of 2008 did they manage to cross midfield. Granted, this is an Ipsos poll, not Gallup, but any poll above 50 percent is significant. No doubt some of […]

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Hot Air » Top Picks

Surya Yalamanchili Paves Path For Progressives: Only Major Federal Candidate Rejecting PAC Donations

October 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Few serious observers of American politics would claim that corporate interests are underrepresented in the halls of Congress. After all, over the past two years alone, corporate special interests have spent hundreds of millions of dollars weakening health care legislation, undermining financial reform, stalling a climate change bill, and eviscerating the expansion of workers’ rights. Many of these same corporate interests are continuing to spend millions during the run up to the election, often hiding their donations behind front groups with innocuous sounding names like Americans For Job Security.

One candidate for federal office is taking the battle against these big corporate interests into his own hands. Surya Yalamanchili — a former Apprentice contestant who, as Think Progress previously noted, faced attacks during his primary that someone with his name can’t win — is the Democratic nominee for Congress to take on Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) in Ohio’s 2nd district. Yalamanchili is running his campaign without taking a dime from Political Action Committees (PACs), which are “organized for the purpose of raising and spending money to elect and defeat candidates,” and are often vehicles for corporate special interests. He is the only major candidate — defined here as anyone raising more than $ 100,000 — for federal office who is running without help from PACs, other than Connecticut’s GOP US Senate Linda McMahon, who is self-financing her election with tens of millions of dollars of her personal wealth. That means Yalamanchili is the only major candidate running for federal office who is both refusing to take PAC money and not financing his campaign out of his personal wealth.

Of course, standing on principle puts Yalamanchili at a significant financial disadvantage against his opponent Schmidt. Thanks to the deep pockets of special interests such as the American Bankers Association and Citigroup, Schmidt raised more funds from PAC money through September 30th than Yalamanchili has from individual donors. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets website illustrates the funding advantage that his opponent has:

Yet Yalamanchili does not regret standing up for the principle of clean elections. In an interview with ThinkProgress, the candidate told us, “Every politician running for office agrees on the need for reform in the financing of our elections. But nothing ever happens because these same politicians were elected through abusing that very process. I chose to turn away all special interest money because it’s the right thing to do on principle, it will allow me to work only for the people, and because I want to show future candidates a viable path to victory without selling out.”


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