It is hard to believe that in America we have powerful bureaucrats at the federal and state level who decide how much speech is too much. It is equally hard to believe that these same individuals can decide which groups of Americans are allowed to associate with one another, or for how long, or in what manner. It’s time for that to end.
Consider the plight of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Mr. DeLay faced more than ten years in court before he was finally exonerated from fabricated “money laundering” charges brought in the state of Texas. DeLay helped finance his political committee in the very same manner Republican and Democratic groups had done for the past decade. But because state laws were vague and open to the wild interpretation of zealous prosecutors, he faced ten years of fighting for his innocence. With our help, he won his appeal with full acquittal.
Or consider the plight of Eric O’Keefe and other conservative activists in Wisconsin. In 2012, the State of Wisconsin launched a secretive “John Doe” investigation into the political affairs of conservative activists. This included pre-dawn raids into the homes of people active in Wisconsin politics. All this because certain groups and individuals had met with Governor Walker or his campaign team to discuss issues they cared about, and the public cared about, and dared to then speak publicly about them. Meeting with officeholders is now known as an insidious form of corruption and investigations are launched to deter this sort of behavior under a theory of illegal coordination.
Overzealous campaign finance reform will predictably produce these results time and time again. By expansively labeling innocent acts of cooperation and association as the new “corruption,” campaign finance law makes criminals out of many Americans. When the law is so broad and so vague, the result is that only the government and, by extension, “reformer” allies get to decide who is allowed to speak and what the best ideas are for the people.