Free Speech Is So Annoying to Elected Officials

They want to control the terms of the debate.

“There’s just way too much money in politics,” said a candidate for governor earlier this month. Since the candidate was Terry McAuliffe, a political fundraiser of Brobdingnagian proportions, the remark could go down as the funniest line from this year’s contest.

McAuliffe had just been asked if he would support campaign-finance reform, so he may simply have been pandering to his audience. Unfortunately, many others who have said much the same mean every word of it. That spells bad news for ordinary citizens like Edmund Corsi.

Corsi lives in Geauga County, Ohio, where he strives to be a burr under the saddle of public officials who disregard the Constitution, which to Corsi means most of them. So a few years ago he started a blog (why should he be different?) and got together with a couple of like-minded folks. The called themselves the Geauga Constitutional Council.

One day Corsi was handing out pamphlets at a county fair. One of the people who took a flyer was Ed Ryder, a Republican and a member of the local Board of Elections. Corsi didn’t have much nice to say about Ryder. So Ryder did what any petty Napoleon would do: He went after Corsi using Ohio’s campaign-finance laws.

Long story short: Because Corsi spent money, no matter how little (his website cost all of $40), the Ohio Election Commission said Corsi should have incorporated his group and registered with the state as a political action committee — hiring a lawyer to help with the “very complicated” process. As far as Ohio is concerned a political action committee can consist of as few as two people. Besides, Corsi engaged in “express advocacy” about politicians. The horror.

Two courts have ruled in the commission’s favor. The Center for Competitive Politics, which is based in Arlington, has asked the Supreme Court to hear Corsi’s case. Let’s hope the justices agree to do so, because the Corsi case epitomizes a growing problem: the censoring of free speech through back-door regulation.

That was precisely the problem at issue in the scandal over the IRS’ treatment of tea-party groups: Organizations with certain political views were singled out for special scrutiny — their applications sidetracked, their activities probed, their members’ reading habits and religious practices investigated — at the behest of government officials such as Sens. Chuck Schumer and Al Franken. (A few progressive groups got caught up in the sweep. But like dolphins caught in tuna nets, they were not the intended target.)

Don’t let the IRS scandal lead you to believe shutting up political opponents is something only Democrats do, however. Just look at Wisconsin, where progressive foes of Republican Gov. Scott Walker have been holding “Solidarity Sing-Alongs” at the state capital ever since Walker signed anti-union legislation. NPR reports that “earlier this summer, the Walker administration apparently grew tired of the protests and ordered Capitol police to start arresting people.”

NPR says more than 300 protesters have been booked since “a federal judge ruled that groups with more than 20 participants must get a permit.” To that, retiree Ron Edwards offers this riposte: “We won’t get a permit because the First Amendment is our permit.”

In Norfolk, city officials who were trying to take Bob Wilson’s property through condemnation didn’t like the sign he put up protesting “eminent domain abuse.” So they threatened him with fines of $1,000 a day for improper signage.

Officials in St. Louis pulled the same stunt on landlord Jim Roos, who put up a similar sign. When the city told him he needed a permit, he applied for one. The city turned him down. Last week in California, Modesto Junior College told a student he could not hand out copies of the Constitution — on Constitution Day.

In Minneapolis, officials wanted to stop Brian Johnson from handing out Bibles at a gay-pride festival (a festival organizer claimed that would cause “congestion”). A federal court agreed, but recently was reversed on appeal. And Minnesota state officials do not want to silence just Bible-thumpers: They want to silence everyone in the vicinity of a polling booth.

Minnesota law makes it a misdemeanor to wear any “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” to the polls. In 2010, a number of Minnesotans fell afoul of that rule. The Rutherford Institute, based in Charlottesville, and the D.C.-based Cato Institute have filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to hear their case.

The two organizations contend such passive political activity is protected by the First Amendment. Minnesota contends that it threatens the “integrity” of elections. In that regard, the Land of 10,000 Lakes has much company. Nothing is so threatening to the democratic process, the governing class seems to think, than letting ordinary citizens think they can run the show.

This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  • sarcasmic||

    Freedom means asking permission and taking orders. You're free to speak all you want. Just make sure you get permission first, and do it they way they tell you. You're free to keep and bear arms. Just make sure you ask permission first and do it they way they tell you. You're free to....

  • anon||

    You're free to speak all you want. Just make sure you get permission first, and do it they way they tell you.

    Don't forget, you must be in a "free speech zone," citizen, or else we'll lock you up forever for inciting a riot with your hate speech.

  • sarcasmic||

    You're free to assemble. Just make sure you get permission first, and do it they way they tell you.

  • anon||

    Could you imagine how much crying there'd be from Boehner, Reid, et al if our constitution had some magical power to restrict the government from performing its intended role? There'd be enough tears to raise ocean levels at least 2 inches.

  • anon||

    er, restrict the government from performing actions outside of its intended role. My bad, thinking too fast for my typing.

  • Barnstormer||

    I thought you had it right the first time.

  • ||

    Depends on whose intentions he's referring to.

  • UnCivilServant||

    And don't forget the include the 'othered' groups in your assemblage, for equality and diversity!

  • anon||

    "Equality" has always gotten on my nerves, but lately I just want to punch people in the throat when they say "But equality!"

  • UnCivilServant||

    I'm fine with equality of opportunity in principle (I'm also a hypocrite in practice) but equality of outcome just pisses me right off, because it lets slackers get ahead without putting in the required effort.

  • anon||

    The only "equality" that matters is *every* member of a society being treated the same way according to the law; which, I'd like to note, the progressive income tax directly violates.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Are capital gains income?

  • anon||

    Is it right to tax someone based on income?

    "Hey, I got an idea. All these damn productive members of society, they need to *PAY*. Lets crush their incentive to produce shit people want."

  • UnCivilServant||

    I contend that not all income is generated 'productively'.

  • anon||

    Then you'd be wrong.

  • UnCivilServant||

    So the Governer's policy advisor on diversity studies management is a productive position?

  • anon||

    See "Some Guy's" comment above or below, depending where it posts this.

  • some guy||

    @anon

    In a free market all income is generated productively. But our market is not free.

  • sarcasmic||

    anon, you forget that these productive people aren't producing the right products. All production should be guided by the state, because only really smart people in government can know what society needs. Let people in society decide, and you get McDonalds serving unhealthy food and Walmart selling cheap Chinese crap. It's because the general public is too stupid to know what's good for them. That's why producers must be taxed into oblivion. Then the state can pick up the pieces and give people what they really need. Because government knows best.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Uhhh, no. There's just some deadweight loss in the economy, resulting in income from unproductive sources.

    Oh wait, your default mode is sarcasm.

  • anon||

    Uhhh, no. There's just some deadweight loss in the economy, resulting in income from unproductive sources.

    Sarcasmic knew that I was assuming a truly free market rather than an actual existing mixed economy.

    What we have today is *not* capitalism.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I was assuming a truly free market

    And I was working in reality. Your stated assumption was not made clear from the comments you posted.

  • sarcasmic||

    What we have today is *not* capitalism.

    Crony capitalism, otherwise known as crapitalism.

  • Hyperion||

    All production should be guided by the state, because only really smart people in government can know what society needs

    Very true. Because if left to their own will, the people will clearly buy bad things, like almost a billion dollars of dangerous video games in one day. Proof that people don't really know what they want. They're being tricked by greedy corporations into buying the wrong stuff.

  • sarcasmic||

    They're being tricked by greedy corporations into buying the wrong stuff.

    Exactly!

  • ||

    Jesus Sarc.....enough with the Obama speeches already.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    No, it doesn't. The progressive income tax taxes everybody who makes $X at the same rate, and then everybody who makes $X+Y gets taxed at the same rate on that higher increment, while still paying the first increment on the first $x.

    Which isn't to say that the progressive income tax isn't a lousy idea.

  • kinnath||

    Equal opportunity does not guarantee equal outcomes

    Equal rights do not guarantee equal opportunity

    Life is a bitch, and then you die

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Go for the nose; it bleeds quite satisfactorily.

  • John Galt||

    Remember citizen: Freedom is compliance. Liberty is obedience.

  • Paul.||

    In Minneapolis, officials wanted to stop Brian Johnson from handing out Bibles at a gay-pride festival (a festival organizer claimed that would cause “congestion”).

    A festival organizer that has clearly never suffered any oppression at the hands of the government for his or her beliefs, behaviors or lifestyle.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Many people really are that tone-deaf to that sort of thing. Radical feminists are screaming about the horror that their freedom of association may have to yield to anti-discrimination laws but are stonily silent about the same effect on everyone else's freedom of association. Then again, if politically correct people were open to logic, there would be no politically correct people.

  • SIV||

  • Anonymous Coward||

    They do make a sound point:

    If they have rented the park and paid whatever fees thst entails, then they may have a legitimate right to exclude others from their event.

  • SIV||

    Not under the terms of the rental agreement. It is a public event in a public park.The guy was handing out Bibles on a public sidewalk. The homos did exercise their right to deny him vendor space.

    My point above is that Hinkle is misrepresenting the circumstances by saying Minneapolis wanted to stop the guy from giving away Bibles at a gay pride event. They spent a lot of time and money defending his right to do so.

  • Hyperion||

    a festival organizer claimed that would cause “congestion”

    What if he were handing out free condoms? Would that cause congestion?

  • Paul.||

    Kind of OT:

    This kind of stuff gets me to thinking-- especially with this latest terror attack in Nairobi.

    This is the type of thing that could happen here. I believe the chances are much reduced, but still, this kind of public attack could certainly occur in almost any public place in America.

    ...And it will be liberals and the left that will call for a pervasive military state if it does.

    If an attack of this type happened here, it would put to bed any hesitation I have to carry a weapon everywhere, including places which are 'Gun Free' zones by law: Schools, etc.

    However, the left will never agree that the idea of distributed self-defense is a good thing, so the left will have only one choice: Demand armed para-military units be placed into all malls and public spaces where large numbers of people gather. The sight of sub-machine gun toting officers will become commonplace, just like you see in Israel or other places where attacks are common.

    This has already become status quo. Ride a Ferry in Washington and you're escorted by two Coast Guard speed boats with manned twin m60s on the bow.

    Think about it... liberals demanding armed troops in every public space. The irony will be too rich.

  • sarcasmic||

    I don't know what's ironic about it. Liberals hate the concept of self defense, and they love to see government people with guns. They love it. There's nothing more comforting to leftists than soldiers. Until they find the guns are pointed at them.

  • Loki||

    Liberals hate the concept of self defense, and they love to see government people with guns. They love it.

    ...especially if those government people with guns are loading their political opponents onto cattle cars.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yep. It's only a matter of time.

  • SIV||

    Can't have a May Day pardae without precision marching teams.

  • Carolynp||

    The irony is never lost on me. Doubly amusing in Detroit, where police response time is 58 minutes, but you can't arm yourself.

  • playa manhattan||

    I'm really not concerned about getting caught carrying at a school, because if I do get caught, it will mean that I have most likely saved lives. Otherwise, it will go unnoticed.

    Anytime a business transports more than $300, it is done with 2 armed guards and an armored truck. I don't get the logic that under the law, $300 is more important than my kids.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Kids have a market value of only $240 under current conditions.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    Is that in 2007 dollars, though?

  • UnCivilServant||

    No, 2012 dollars, sorry.

  • playa manhattan||

    But if I have both my kids in the swagger wagon at the same time, the threshold is met.

  • UnCivilServant||

    The market valuations are only estimates because yours are not publically traded children, thus their value for the purposes of the law is last sale price - $0.

  • playa manhattan||

    They are worth at least 3 times that amount.

  • Carolynp||

    I see an opportunity for a marketing campaign...

  • gaoxiaen||

    The true market value of children is somewhere around minus $250,000 each.

  • Paul.||

    it is done with 2 armed guards and an armored truck. I don't get the logic that under the law, $300 is more important than my kids.

    I've never met your kids so... hard to judge.

    I KEED! I KEED! I mean, I have a keed myself.

  • Zeb||

    Anytime a business transports more than $300, it is done with 2 armed guards and an armored truck. I don't get the logic that under the law, $300 is more important than my kids.

    Well, there are a lot more people out there that would want to steal $300 than would want to steal your kids. School buses don't get the children stolen off of them very often.

    Of course, I do agree that the gun free school zone thing is entirely stupid.

  • Hyperion||

    ...And it will be liberals and the left that will call for a pervasive military state if it does.

    They won't have to call too loud, or at all. We're almost there already.

    The problem is that they aren't liberals, they're progressives.

  • sarcasmic||

    Funny how what they call 'progress' is a march towards despotism.

  • Zeb||

    They never said progress towards what.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    "Liberals" or "Progressives"; what they are is nitwits.

  • some guy||

    Al Queda has already said they want to shift over to small time stuff that will bleed the west economically. Such an attack would do jut that. If you think the TSA is bad, imagine if the TSA was everywhere at all times.

  • Loki||

    imagine if the TSA was everywhere at all times.

    RAGE, TAKING OVER!!!11!!

  • Paul.||

    Al Queda has already said they want to shift over to small time stuff that will bleed the west economically.

    And this is the strategy that I'm surprised they didn't use from the beginning. The big terror attacks, while big and scary, don't affect my everyday life. Now make it a real possibility that I and my kid could be shot up while shopping at Wicks 'n Sticks? Yeah, now I'm jumpy.

  • Paul.||

    Yeah, imagine those same blue-shirted knuckleheads carrying SMGs.

  • Rasilio||

    I've been saying this since 2001.

    If Al Quaeda really wanted to hurt the US they would be bombing shopping malls, high school football games, public transportation systems, etc.

    Soft targets with no measurable security that soccer moms everywhere would look at and say "wait, my kids go to a mall just like that one, it could happen to them"

    America as we know it would be dead in less than a decade.

    The high profile targets they pick don't work on the average American because they look at them and think "Sucks to be those guys but that could never happen here".

    No, terrorist attacks on targets like the Pentagon and WTC are more about terrorist groups trying to one up each other and prove how "badass" they are

  • Flyboy||

    This is the type of thing that could happen here. I believe the chances are much reduced, but still, this kind of public attack could certainly occur in almost any public place in America.

    In Boston, for example.

  • gaoxiaen||

    If only they would attack someplace like the IRS or DEA headquarters. They could actually become popular.

  • ||

    Paul, this is who they have always been and what they have always wanted, they just never felt they could say it out loud before.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    FIRE! FIIIIIIIIIRE!

  • UnCivilServant||

    This is a forum on a blog, it isn't going to start people running for the doors, P Brooks.

  • Swiss Servator, Spare a Franc?||

    *pants and tries to catch breath*

    Wait, I didn't have to run?!

  • Biden's Scroteplugs||

    you can't shout fire in a crowded theater. unless someone proposes cutting taxes.

  • OneOut||

    Or unless they actually see a fire ?

  • Paul.||

    The room's not crowded enough.

  • sarcasmic||

  • The Late P Brooks||

    You're trying to infringe my speech, you bureaucrat.

    I knew it.

  • Paul.||

    On your hate speech, you mean. Big difference. BIG difference.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    What if there's a blindfolded man smoking a cigarette on the stage?

  • UnCivilServant||

    It's either a live execution by firing squad, or someone is about to shoot the cigarette out.

    Either way, firearms are involved, and shouting fire will result in their discharge.

  • some guy||

    The main reason they hate freedom of speech is because it is the one freedom that everyone uses every day. Every time they walk down the street, turn on a TV, read a newspaper or go online they are reminded that there is something commonplace that they do not control. It's like having cactus needles in their socks. They can't stand it. So when an opportunity does come along to quash some speech and get away with it, they simply can't resist.

  • Loki||

    A few progressive groups got caught up in the sweep. But like dolphins caught in tuna nets, they were not the intended target.

    They were just sacrificing a few progressive groups for the greater good. This way they can claim "See, it wasn't just tea party groups, there were prog groups that got caught up in the IRS targeting too. That makes it all A-OK, because trampling people's rights is all good so long as everyone get trampled on equally. Because fairness."

  • some guy||

    Equal in misery is still equal. And Equality is all that matters.

  • juliajulii||

    uptil I saw the bank draft that said $9401, I didnt believe that...my... friends brother had been truly receiving money part-time on their apple labtop.. there moms best frend had bean doing this 4 only about 17 months and just now cleared the dept on their cottage and bourt a brand new Fiat Multipla. go to website

    ------
    ​http://www.communityjobfinder.pkm.ddp.net/

  • ||

    a brand new Fiat Multipla

    Unpossible: the Fiat Multipla was manufactured only until 2010.

  • bassjoe||

    Minnesota law makes it a misdemeanor to wear any “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” to the polls.
    ----------
    Technically, just wearing a badge that says "Voting is Your Right" to a poll station could be a violation. Oh, the irony.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Land of 10,000 useful idiots. And they get shit on by coastal Team Blue but they keep coming back and asking for more.

  • christopherolken||

    my buddy's aunt makes $83/hour on the internet. She has been laid off for 5 months but last month her pay was $12861 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read Full Report
    http://www.Rush60.com

  • christopherolken||

    my buddy's aunt makes $83/hour on the internet. She has been laid off for 5 months but last month her pay was $12861 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read Full Report
    http://www.Rush60.com

  • Ruckweiler||

    What these guys seem to desire is a return to the Alien & Sedition Acts which criminalized speaking out against the government, among other things.

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