Why Campaign Finance Rules Are an Affront to Free Speech, Vol. MCMLXII


Bookmark this tale next time you hear another lefty pal complain that those of us who oppose campaign-finance restrictions are just trying to enable the billionaire buyout of democracy:

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the nonprofit group that has spearheaded opposition to the nation's first offshore wind farm for nearly a decade, may have breached federal tax law by airing a radio ad critical of Governor Deval Patrick in the final days of the governor's race, according to a [Boston] Globe review of the Internal Revenue Service code and agency guidelines.

The ad, which aired on five stations covering Greater Boston, the South Shore, and the Worcester area, criticized Patrick for supporting the Cape Wind energy proposal while noting that "the other candidates for governor" opposed the project.

"Tired of paying high electric bills?" the ad began. "If Governor Patrick has his way, 172 communities across Massachusetts will soon be paying even more." The ad also referred listeners to an Alliance website that drew a sharp contrast between Patrick and Charles D. Baker, his Republican opponent, while urging readers to "get out and vote on Nov. 2."

Read the whole Globe article if you want an explanation for how this may have run afoul of various campaign restrictions, but first ask yourself a question: In what First Amendment-respecting universe should a single-issue nonprofit be punished for urging a no-vote on the lone candidate for a particular office who is on the opposing end of that single issue? This is the logical consequence of political speech regulation, which no amount of shouting the word "plutocracy!" can mask.

Reason on campaign finance regulation here. Link via the Twitter feed of Dan Kennedy.