Nancy Pelosi

First on Nancy Pelosi's Agenda: Attacking Free Expression

Campaign finance legislation is always about inhibiting someone's speech.


I have zero interest in financially supporting any politician, much less ones I find morally unpalatable. Yet Democrats want to force me—and every other American taxpayer—to contribute, as a matter of public policy, to the campaigns of candidates we disagree with. Believe it or not, this might be an even more dangerous assault on free expression than unpleasant tweets directed at CNN anchors.

One of Nancy Pelosi's first projects as the new speaker of the House will be passing a government overhaul of campaign finance and ethics rules that would, among other things, "expand voting rights." One of the new bills—specifics are still cloudy—reportedly would allocate a pool of taxpayer money to match small-dollar donations 6-to-1, as a way of encouraging "grass-roots campaigning," according to The Wall Street Journal.

The package, fortunately, wouldn't pass the Senate. But creating government-financed campaigns—empowering the state to allocate money to preferred donors and dissuading non-preferred donors—has been something of a hobbyhorse in progressive circles. Setting aside the many constitutional concerns, the recent abuses by the IRS when tasked with regulating political speech demonstrate just how easy it is for bureaucrats to manipulate rules meant to govern speech. These are rules that shouldn't exist, period.

Some big cities have already begun handing out tax-funded "democracy vouchers." In other words, politicians have passed legislation that subsidizes the speech of people who will, for the most part, support them. It's quite the racket. Pelosi wants to take this corruption national.

Reducing the power of "special interests" in Washington is always a popular issue with voters. The problem, of course, is that every voter considers another group a special interest. Though as a political notion, campaign finance reform remains popular with Americans, specific campaign finance reform legislation is always about inhibiting someone's speech.

What many Americans don't seem to accept, particularly partisans, is that not voting or participating in our political process is also a matter of free expression. There's nothing, after all, in the Constitution about how the state should encourage "grass-roots activism." There is no amendment that calls on us to treat the First Amendment rights of Michael Bloomberg any differently than we do those of the grandmother who foolishly sends her Social Security check to Bernie Sanders. The word "fairness" isn't mentioned a single time in the entire document.

There is something about abridging freedom of speech. And money is speech. This fact has been codified by the Supreme Court. Writing is speech. Speaking is speech. Speaking anonymously is speech. Joining a group of other Americans to petition the government is also speech.

Yet Democrats will also include a provision in their package that would make tax-exempt 501(c)(4) charitable groups disclose donors who've given $10,000 or more during an election cycle. As I've written elsewhere, this obsession with eliminating anonymity is also a transparent attempt to chill speech and undermine minority opinions.

(As an aside, the media's incessant use of the euphemism "good-government groups" in describing "special interest groups" that campaign to limit "dark money" is itself a political bias. There's no evidence that "good government" is contingent on handing over donor information to activists or that asking the IRS permission to petition the state engenders better governance. These groups do for "good government" what the Patriot Act did for patriotism and the Affordable Care Act did for affordability.)

Now, you might recall that one of the central criticisms Democrats leveled at the Citizens United free speech decision was that corporate funding would force employees and shareholders to support issues and candidates against their will. This was a facile claim, seeing as in the private sector, workers and shareholders are free to associate with companies that comport with their politics.

At the same time, however, Democrats are perfectly comfortable impelling taxpayers to contribute to campaigns. Liberals simultaneously bitterly complain about the Supreme Court's Janus decision, which finally stopped public-sector unions from coercing workers to pay "agency fees" to fund their political activities.

This is because, for all their hysterics over Donald Trump's rhetoric, Democrats are fully engaged in attempting to control political speech.


NEXT: The Last Adult in Sacramento

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  1. Finding out Pelosi is back in power is a bit like getting bit in the stomach by a horse.

    1. You know who else suffered injury from a horse?

        1. To be bitten in the stomach is bad enough, but we should be especially concerned at any back-biting that threatens reputational interests, particularly those of our distinguished colleagues here at NYU. There is nothing wrong with limiting so-called “free speech rights,” as long as the limiting is in the service of proper causes, including above all the interests of respectable members of society. Hopefully Pelosi will do nothing that endangers a reputation. As an example of a proper speech-limitation, see the documentation of our great nation’s leading criminal “satire” case at:

      1. Superman?

      2. Catherine the Great?

        1. Fake news, Jeff.

    2. She’s like a wart that keeps coming back.

      She’s despicable.

      Anyone who attempts an attack on speech deserves all the scorn they receive.

  2. Do you still get to keep your list of small donors secret? I have some donors prefer to make multiple small donations instead of one large.

    1. Exactly. Fat Cats will never figure that one out no matter how many mouthpieces they have on retainer. Brilliant.

    2. This is my approach to lovemaking.

      1. How “small” are your “donations”? Do people laugh?

  3. Of course first on her list is to limit freedom. There are a few exceptions but its about a 90% hit rate that anything the Ds propose is limiting freedom.

    The “both siders” who dominate Reason will equate the 10% exception with the 90% rule of course.

  4. I see, “grass-roots activism” is Newspeak for “get me and my cronies reelected.” Got it.

  5. Are you serious? Are you serious?

  6. Libertarians might well argue that the purpose of elections is to legitimize the evil shit that our elected officials do to us, and, as such, the right of libertarians to refuse to participate in that process should be respected. Forcing libertarians under threat of harassment by the IRS to participate in that system is fundamentally forced speech and violates the First Amendment for that reason alone.

  7. Has Reason covered this guy yet?

    1. Not sure that fits with the narrative around here anymore.

    2. Not sure that fits with the narrative around here anymore. Gotta make it about Trump somehow. Maybe if he tweets about it. Then we’ll get a headline in morning links like:

      “Trump stupidly lambastes . . . “

      1. Sorta like you had to make his comment about Trump somehow?

        1. I don’t know how to point out Reason’s Trump obsession without making any reference to Trump.

    3. Good to see they’re finally getting around to routinely disclosing evidence to the defense.

  8. As a side note, we’re not just talking about libertarians being forced to financially support the political speech of progressives. We’re also talking about progressives being forced to finance the political speech of anti-immigration candidates, anti-gay marriage candidates, Donald Trump, et. al.

    The other interesting aspect of such legislation, if it existed, would be that it would give everyone a legitimate foothold in policing speech. The flip side of natural laws like “no taxation without representation” is “he who pays the piper gets to call the tune”. One of the reasons Christian fundamentalists think they should get to teach intelligent design in public schools is that their taxes are paying for the schools. How can you force them to pay for something within the context of democracy and then expect them not to assert their influence on how those schools are run?

    It’ll be the same thing with speech. Once you force the voters to pay for other people’s speech, do you imagine that they won’t want to assert their influence over what other people can and can’t say? Not likely.

    1. “How can you force them to pay for something within the context of democracy and then expect them not to assert their influence on how those schools are run?”

      The Constitution and Supreme Court say so.

      1. Sometimes.

        Sometimes they say, “Commerce Clause!”

        Sometimes they say, “Penaltax!

      2. It’s often through funding that government finds ways to dictate. For instance, federal government has no role in education except that they can withhold funding for schools that don’t comply with whatever schemes they come up with. It’s not unforeseeable that the matching funds could be restricted on the basis of things like “hate speech” or some other such nonsense. They wouldn’t be limiting speech, they’d only be limiting access to money based on speech. That’s likely an angle here.

      3. Da comrade. Sage wisdom.

        Stop making everything a collective responsibility paid for by others and maybe, just maybe people will stop making a federal case out of every interaction they don’t agree with.

    2. As a side note, we’re not just talking about libertarians being forced to financially support the political speech of progressives. We’re also talking about progressives being forced to finance the political speech of anti-immigration candidates, anti-gay marriage candidates, Donald Trump, et. al.

      We’re not, actually.

      It will only be wrongthinkers who are hurt by this rule.

      And those who point it out, after the rule is made law, will be accused of ‘whataboutism’ by the ‘libertarians’ that infest reason these days–when they’re not screeching ‘BUT…” at the top of their lungs, of course.

      1. Of course it will be applied as a double standard. Many are already accepted practice. For example, the Civil Rights Act states you can’t discriminate based on race. But enforcement only occurs when whites discriminate against blacks. Blacks discriminating against whites is NEVER enforced.

        The “preferred donors’ will always be Ds if this law was passed.

    3. Arizona has public financing options for elections. We get more convictions for fraud (lying on match forms) than we do of someone successfully getting elected from them.

    4. I love it when someone says, “stop politicizing education.” Ok, stop making it a government program.

  9. Expanding voting rights is just sad when you can’t also expand voting choices. Are there that many idiots who can still feel excited that they are allowed to choose between giant douches and turd sandwiches?

    Pelosi and her ilk have figured out how to limit real free expression almost as much as China’s Poo Bear government, but without the nasty tyranny (at least not in obvious view).

    1. In the choice between giant douche and a turd sandwich, at least we could choose not to participate. If the Democrats take that away from us as a matter of principle, I might break for the giant douche in protest.

  10. People better smarten up.

    Free speech is under attack and the cancer is pretending to be protected by free speech.

    The Supreme Court has ruled that lying is not protected by the first amendment except in politics. Apparently politics depends on lying and the harms it causes.

    That ruling is an error, a cancer which allows politicians, lawmakers to break the law and lie about it, Under the protection of “politics”.

    Protect free speech by cutting out the cancer that threatens it. Criminalize lying outside of courts and contracts where it is already a crime. Force the Supreme Court to correct its hypocritical error.

    1. If lying in political speech is criminalized, you will soon find that saying anything those in power don’t like is considered to be “lying”.

      We protect lying in politics, not because lying is valuable, but because you can’t trust the government to honestly distinguish between lies and the truth.

      1. We are ready at that point if you compare the Hillary and trump investigations.

    2. What? It is not a crime to lie in public, even if it is not related to politics. What is a crime is any FRAUD that may result from a lie.

      1. So everyone who helped craft or voted for Obamacare should be locked up for the intentional frauds they perpetuated?

      2. Don’t worry Jeffy, you’re covered. Pleading ignorance and stupidity will be very easy if you’re accused of lying. I will certainly be available to corroborate such a defense.

        You know, I spoil you.

    3. What? Lying is the only thing that all people agree on, especially lying to themselves. And the proof is that everyone denies it. Making it criminal will just make everyone even more illegal.

    4. Damaging, knowingly-false statements about politicians are already illegal.

  11. And Republicans want to help you to not vote by closing polling stations, restricting voting eligibility, eliminating early voting, rigging the census, gerrymandering your district and so on.

    1. but what about impeaching trumps for being president?

      it was Hillarys turn – everyone said so – but somehow trumps won..

      How did he win?

      Russian Robots brainwashed the peoples.

      Follow the money – impeach trump


    2. Yes, equivalency is an important thing to remember . . . for some reason.

      Neither of them is libertarian, so they’re both equally bad–it’s a universal rule that applies to everything. In fact, it applies so consistently, that if you can’t immediately think of a way in which one party’s sins are equivalent to the other party’s, you can just start randomly citing shit without context and know that it’s true!

      For instance, it doesn’t really matter if the Democrats are orchestrating a direct attack on the First Amendment–not so much as it’s important to remember that the Republicans are also not perfect. And if you need evidence of that latter part, just remember x, y, and z, and then you’ll realize that it doesn’t really matter that the Democrats are attacking the First Amendment!

      Isn’t it great the way “equivalency” makes us feel better?

      1. Who has said Democrats and Republicans are both *EQUALLY* bad when it comes to protecting free speech? I don’t think they are equally bad, personally. But I also think that both sides are *bad enough*.

        1. Red herrings are red herrings.

    3. And Republicans Democrats want to help you to not vote by closing polling stations, restricting voting eligibility, eliminating early voting, rigging the census, gerrymandering your district and so on.

      Democrats had to keep those Negroes from voting to change how the South was run.

    4. Restricting voter legibility to those who are actually eligible is a good thing.

      You don’t like your districts? elect new state legislators. That’s how it works. Crying gerrymander is a call for what? Some supreme judge to edict what the districts shall be? LOL Yea what could go wrong there.

      Early voting and “election day” seem to be conflicting principles. Vote at your polling place on election day or get an absentee ballot that MUST be in by election day and will be counted on election day.

      Who is “rigging” the census and how are they doing it.?

      1. Maybe the whole idea of districts, i.e., legislators choosing their voters, is a stupid idea and ought to be abolished.

        1. State legislators setup the federal House districts, so they are not choosing their voters

    5. And Republicans want to help you to not vote by closing polling stations at the hour they’re designated to close–instead of keeping them open until the ‘correct’ ballots can be delivered, restricting voting eligibility to citizens who are legally permitted to vote based on the laws of the state they live in, eliminating early voting to actual absentee voting, rigging the census to insure accurate, actual counting instead of partisan estimations, gerrymandering your district so that decisions aren’t controlled by dense populations of people who don’t pay taxes and so on.

      There. Fixed that for you.

      1. Nicely done, Azathoth!! There’s a great deal of truth in what you write.

    6. Its funny you idiots keep talking about closing of polling stations even though that is a local choice by a local politician in 99% of cases, often by Democrat election board supervisors. But you keep on being ignorant.

  12. Pelosi is nuts! Her agenda must be exposed for what it is…

  13. There does not need to be any massive amounts of money in politics to win.

    A candidate needs to get on the ballot(s). That’s it.

    Of course, getting your name out there and meeting people probably does not hurt your chances.

    The fact is that Americans are going to vote the way that they do in spite of Billions spent. Incumbents have a massive advantage because voters tend to re-elect incumbents. If voters threw politicians out of office after a single term, all sorts of new politicians would get a chance.

    The system of pork has been setup make seniority in Congress a benefit. Powerful politicians get more money sent back to their home states and districts.

    1. There’s a threshold of attention you have to get, and that often depends on money.

      Beyond a certain point you get diminishing returns, but using *some* money is better than not having any.

  14. Donald Trump is assaulting the first amendment by mentioning “fake news.”

    Now, they begin the push for censoring political speech.


    1. I’m not sure that Donald Trump tweeting about the jackholes in the White House press corps is equivalent to the House Democrats assaulting the First Amendment, but I guess that’s not as important as making it about the Republicans and Trump, somehow, too.

      The other day I burned my hand while fiddling with something in the air fryer, which was foolish of me, but then I remembered that Donald Trump once said something stupid on Twitter, too–so I guess it all evens out in the end. Isn’t that how the world works?

      1. Yes, its the “both sides” syndrome

      2. They’re not equivalent.

        They are both representative examples of how both major tribes don’t really take a principled position on protecting free speech.

        There, glad I could clear that up for you.

        1. Tweeting about jackholes is also free speech, whats your point?

        2. What difference does that make?

          We should support the Democrats’ assault on the First Amendment because the Republicans are also imperfect?

          That’s shithead thinking. It’s irrational. It’s stupid.

          Is any of this getting through that thick skull of yours?

          1. No. We’re talking about Little Jeffy here, nothing penetrates. Nor does he learn. In fact, he keeps showing up to comment immigration articles making the same tired, discredited arguments. Then claims no one will make an argument against his ‘ideas’. This cycle repeats itself.

            He really is that obtuse.

      3. it’s just hypocrisy: Trump is evil if he says something mean, now let’s go try to pass laws that violate the 1A. It’s just so stupid.

        1. Hypocrisy is the tu quoque fallacy.

          Hypocrisy is a good thing if what you’re saying is against something you did in the past that was bad.

          Do you imagine it’s wrong for rapists to criticize other rapists because that’s hypocrisy?

          Meanwhile, I haven’t raped anybody. Haven’t supported a violation of the First Amendment ever!

          Even if tu quoque weren’t a fallacy, why should I refrain from savaging the fucking Democrats for their disgusting assault on some of our most cherished rights?

          The comparison to Republicans is completely irrelevant in every way that makes sense.

          1. They are different, aren’t they?

        2. It’s a red herring.

  15. This is funny as hell. These regional politicians have TDS so bad that they are exposing themselves for the nutjobs that they are and as if they have any real power.

    New Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib Goes off on Trump: ‘We’re Going to Impeach the Motherf*cker!’

    Pelosi was challenged multiple times by Freshman Congressmen about her being crowned Speaker of the House. Freshman Congressmen trying to call the shots is a bad sign for the Democratic Party.

    When a similar thing happened in the GOP over the last election cycles, Freshman helped push RINOs out of the Republican Party or beat them in primaries.

  16. Yeah she’s brilliant enough to make rules that will discourage political influence seeking, despite trillion dollar budgets. She’s also going to introduce legislation to stop hubcap thefts. She’s really on the ball.

  17. Why does it not surprise me that Pelosi doesn’t know what “grassroots” means?

  18. Yeah the whole “democracy voucher” thing is a terrible idea.

  19. Maybe this is a sign that they’ve given up attacking the second amendment and want a different target.

    1. No, it means they think they’ll be more effective attacking the 2nd amendment once they’ve got the 1st out of the way.

      1. Actually, they’re already drafting a law to ban transfers of firearms from one citizen to another without a ‘background check’, and probably watching carefully as Washington state defines every semi-automatic rifle as an ‘assault weapon’.

        They’re still after the 2nd, as well. The Democrats are nothing if not multi-taskers.

  20. C’mon, Nancy.

    Why go to half measures?

    Instead of just requiring folks to financially support your chosen candidates, require them to vote for them as well.

    1. Beat me too it. With all the whining and hand-ringing about people “voting the wrong way”, the only fair and just solution is to apportion votes by legal mandate.

  21. “One of Nancy Pelosi’s first projects as the new speaker of the House will be passing a government overhaul of campaign finance and ethics rules that would, among other things, “expand voting rights.””

    If Pelosi claims “up”, you can be sure it’s “down”.

  22. Democrats are commies in drag.

    They’re, I guess you can say, transgendered.

    Just look at the praising of identity politics.

    I think Hayek was perhaps the most sober thinker of the 20th century.

  23. Here in Canada political parties get money courtesy of taxpayers. So, if you’re conservative and you disagree with the NDP the government still takes your taxes and hands it over to the party you disagree with.

    It’s all for democracy, see?

    I loathe this practice.

    I will let you abled minds understand why this is terrible.

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  25. Money is not speech. But it is a means for mass dissemination of speech, aka “the press,” also protected by the First Amendment.

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