Energy

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

|

LIMERICK CONTEST! "There once was a Sound from Nantucket…."

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.

Advertisement

NEXT: Judge: Health Care Lawsuit Is "about an individual's right to choose."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. 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

    Sorry Matt, but that would only confirm their belief. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound are the greedy billionaires who tried to buy the race and kill the planet.

    1. I resent this remark.

  2. Wind farms are probably the biggest boondoggles in history. They raise the prices of energy plus they don’t reduce CO2 significantly because fossil fuel burning plants are often used as backups.

    1. All true, but ethanol fuel is an even bigger boondoggle. And don’t even get me started on star wars, SDI, missile defense.

  3. I think liberals are sufficiently comfortable with the status quo that they can live with preventing everyone from speaking, in order to squelch speech of which they disapprove.

  4. Our candidates should be chosen by party establishment elites in wine and cheese filled rooms; there should be no political advertising at all since these people have demonstrated, over and over again, that they know what is best for us.

  5. There once was a Sound from Nantucket
    At least there was until Teddy drunk it
    Someone told him with a grin
    The whole thing was Old Tom Gin
    He demanded two limes and a straw to suck it

    1. I nominate that as almost the best spoof of a dirty limerick that is uncomfortably close to reality. It would have been best if you had got Chapaquidick (I have no idea of how you actually spell that)in there.

  6. I agree with Warren above. Anyone for these regulations will probably point to this case as a success. Also, as I have no friends I will not be bookmarking that page to argue a point against nonexistent humanoids.

    Off topic but important:

    They had a picture of the prince that is to be married on the linked page. Everyone says that he is handsome, but to me he looks like Master Shake when he got all of that plastic surgery on ATHF. Anyone else see it?

    1. I have no friends…Now that’s not true Capitol l, we are frenemies 😉

      He looks like his mother but is reasonably intelligent, whereas the 2nd in line is borderline.

    2. And you wonder why you have no friends.

      I shudder to think what you would say if you got ahold of a picture of me.

      1. Let’s see pretty boy. Besides Tulpa, I like you for your clever personality, and your hilarious eHarmony profile;-)

    3. I agree – the guy looks like a cross between a twerp and a twit.
      and good lord, diana was damn near homely – at the very best, she was plain. Maybe the rack was middling…

  7. This all matters only to those who make contributions of such size as for it to make it worthwhile to itemize on schedule A-B rather than taking the std. deduction.

  8. While everyone is susceptible to advertising, there is simething inherently offensive in the suggestion that by merely spending money on an issue will result in its passage or rejection, irrespective of the issue itself.

    It is as if spending $10 billion for advertising in support of an individual mandate to cut a one-month-old puppy’s throat would pass just because someone spent $10 billion on it.

    1. Otherwise known as the Mike Huffington/Jon Corzine/Meg Whitman counterfactual. If money was all it took, all three of them would be holding elected office, wouldn’t they?

  9. Warren is correct. This would be a pretty poor example to use in debating this issue. A coalition of the wealthy pooling their money to preserve the view from their vacation homes are the prototypical “special interests” that are vaguely referred to so often in American politics. Laws like this are designed specifically to limit the power of exactly this kind of group…I mean the co-chairman of the group opposed to an alternative energy project makes his billions from oil-refining.

    A cynic would also point out that this shadowy co-chair also provides substantial funds to Reason.

    1. A true cynic would focus on this line: 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? and not a throw away line about lefty friends.

    2. The point is that if “Friends of Wind Farms” or whatever ran an ad in support of Deval Patrick, they’d be similarly contravening the law.

      Don’t tell me you’re so naive as to think that windmill manufacturing doesn’t benefit any shadowy special interests.

      1. Tulpa,

        Yes,

        If a group headed up by the CEO of GE were pushing in the other direction, you would have a parallel situation…and again you would have a bad case against the law in question.

        If you want to win the argument, find an example where a single-issue non-profit without pre-existing power and access is being unjustly punished by the law.

        The strict rational approach that MW takes in his “1st respecting universe” will fail every time it ignores the non-rational emotional responses to who is benefitting or harmed by the law.

  10. The Deval is in the details, everybody knows that.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.