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States' and Feds' Assault on Free Speech

by John Stephenson / /

It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. Across the country, millions of hard-working Americans have spoken out against higher taxes and for less spending. But not everyone, especially tax and spenders, wanted to hear that. Now, politicians in places like New Hampshire and Congress want to silence those of us who speak out by requiring groups who engage in advocacy on political issues to meet new, burdensome, and unconstitutional regulations. Proponents call it "fairness," but it's really the trampling on our right to free speech by the government.

In New Hampshire, which I thought was the place where people "live free or die," Sen. Maggie Hassan has introduced an amendment to HB 1459which would require non-profits and other groups engaged in political or issue advocacy to meet several requirements. Among these new requirements are the disclosure of the names of donors, a vote of the board of directors of the group to do such advocacy, and a certification of the vote to the Secretary of State's office. Additionally, groups subject to these requirements would have to report on how much they have to spend. This might sound good in theory, but not when you put it into practice. These requirements will be quite burdensome for small groups that are mainstays in New Hampshire like small business organizations, restaurant associations, and sportsmen. Many of these groups are volunteer-run and might not be able to afford the time and money it would take to meet these requirements.

Meanwhile, a few hundred miles south in the U.S. Congress, the House is poised to take up H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act. While the name gives the bill an aura of nobility, it is actually an attempt to intimidate polticians' opponents by requiring the reporting of the names of members of an organization. Proponents claim that this will eliminate secrecy. This may sound good, but what the bill's proponents fail to mention is that advocacy groups are already required to disclose the amount of money they spend above a defined amount on political communications. What it does is increase the cost burden on groups to report this information and intimidate members from joining groups and their efforts, lest they be labeled opponents. 

These actions by New Hampshire and Congress are an assault on our right to free speech. Expressing your opposition to a decision by your government is fundamental to a democracy. It's time to speak out against these proposals. If you live in New Hampshire, you can call the Governor's office at 603-271-2121, the House Speaker's office at 603-271-3661, and the Senate President's office at 603-271-2111. You can also contact your Representative in the U.S. Congress by calling 202-224-3121. Tell them to oppose restrictions any and all restrictions on political advocacy and free speech!