The Battle For Free Speech Continues

We recently witnessed the spectacle of a CEO being forced to resign due to a campaign contribution he provided to PROP 8 in California during the 2008 election, and we saw the Supreme Court in McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission defend free speech. Both events are connected.

Let us begin with Mozilla’s CEO Brendan Eich who contributed 1000 dollars to Campaign Prop 8, a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. As Instapundit's Glen Reynolds observed, Eich’s position was similar to Obama's position in 2008 and as Reynold quipped, that placed Obama to the right of Dick Cheney. Nowhere was Eich ever accused of harassment or discrimination against any gay employees. Certainly a company can fire a CEO for his political stance, but there is a troublesome aspect to this case, holding certain political views held by a large number of voters can result in the destruction of one’s career. No person should ever see their careers in jeopardy for exercising their rights to participate in the political process.

The message is clear that if you step outside of the boundary of the prevailing conventional wisdom, you could lose your career; and as one pundit observed, there will be pressure down the road to restrict free speech by outlawing certain speech as hate speech through government edict. This is nothing more than intimidation by the left and the message is chilling; involve yourself in politics on the wrong side and hell will reign over you. And the left is using this tactics to silence their political opponents and reduce contribution to conservative causes.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court expanded political free speech. Before the decision, an individual was restricted to the number of candidates he or she could contribute to. Shaun McCutcheon could only contribute a total of 48,600 dollars per election, which means he could only contribute to 9 candidates at the maximum allowed by law. What the Supreme Court stated was that this infringed upon McCutcheon's right to free speech since he was limited in the number of candidates he was allowed to contribute. (Note, the Supreme Court did not deal with actual limits on contribution to candidates only with the number of candidates a person could give to.)

The Courts seem to be moving toward the removal of all limits on giving, but so far the Supreme Court has allowed limits to what contributors can give to each candidate on the assumption that there is state interest to prevent possible corruption. The left did their usual “The world is going to end and the Koch Brothers will buy elections after elections as long as they live. Oh my!” The reality is that the rich donors and political organizations are as likely to give to Democrats as to Republicans but at least by removing the dollar limits along specific restrictions on what could be said in ads in McCutcheon and Citizen United, conservatives have a chance to fight back. The little secret in campaign finance laws is that these laws are design to do the following: protect incumbents, restrict what could be said about incumbents and restrict the ability of individuals to change their government policies.

In the recent IRS scandal, many small groups were the biggest victim of the IRS attack on political opponents.This brings us back to Eich. How did Eich’s contribution become public knowledge? The answer is that in California state elections; any donation over 100 dollars is available to the public and Eich contribution was used against him some six years later. (The irony is that one of the co-owners for OkCupid, one of the groups that spearheaded the efforts to unseat Eich actually gave to a Republican same-sex opponent!) One of the more controversial aspects of political organizations, 501C4, is the shielding of political donors from public record. A decade ago, I supported transparent reporting of political organizations but no more. As the Eich example showed, an individual can see his or her life destroyed if his political contribution information become public and Eich’s ability to get a job in the information tech business will be difficult if not impossible. Shielding a donor from the public view simply protects the individual from harassment and to those who bitch about Citizen United then must protect those they disagree with from losing their jobs and life by Stalinist tactics recently used against Eich. Since much of the political left won’t discontinue Stalinist tactics, then there is no use in giving them any more opportunities to destroy people lives they disagree with.


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