Imagine living in a state where you could be thrown in jail or fined for telling people – your friends, family, Facebook contacts, or Twitter followers – how an elected legislator voted on an issue you care about.
Sounds like something out of a George Orwell novel, right?
Legislation is being actively pushed in states across the country that would protect legislators from criticism and severely restrict your First Amendment rights under the guise of “ethics” or “campaign finance” reform.
Dubbed “Gag Acts,” some introduced bills make the act of exposing anti-liberty voting records illegal unless you first register for permission. The bills include fees for exercising First Amendment rights and fines – even jail time – for non-compliance.
As incredible as that sounds, taking consistent action over a designated time period under some of the bills – such as one filed in Delaware in 2014 – would cause a citizen to be classified as a “lobbyist.” Simply posting information about a bill moving in your state legislature and mentioning politicians by name on Facebook would trigger your reclassification from “concerned citizen” to “lobbyist.”
These Gag Acts would allow politicians to secure their power in office by silencing the grassroots and ensuring their constituents will never learn of their freedom-shredding votes.
For an organization like Campaign for Liberty, much of the proposed legislation would mean we could no longer run our Candidate Survey programs that inform our members of where politicians stand on liberty issues and force our silence on an elected legislator’s voting record. We couldn’t effectively fight for or against legislation, since we couldn’t refer directly to a legislator or tell you where they stand on the issue, and we couldn’t tell you how they voted.
Establishment politicians don’t like having their voting records exposed. But if legislators were acting within the confines of the Constitution, they would have nothing to fear from individuals and groups like Campaign for Liberty.
In many of these bills, corporate lobbyists that wine-and-dine the political class and are not connected to the grassroots are actually exempt.
Many of the bills expand the definition of a solicitation to cover every possible means of human interaction and communication, and reporting requirements include financial information, expenditures, and schedules of activities. They even require any vendors used on a related effort to log and report information on every person reached out to – whether they respond or not. And all of that information – including personal information of vendors and donors – will be public on the Internet.
Some of these bills expand the definition of “charitable organizations” to cover every possible assembly of people, which could end the activities of all advocacy entities within the state – all of them NOT on the state-sanctioned list of exemptions, that is. Political parties and trade unions that fund politicians who support big government policies generally have nothing to fear.
The threat against citizens and grassroots organizations like Campaign for Liberty is serious, and no state is immune from these liberty-shredding bills. If the government manages to silence us, legislators can no longer be held accountable for unconstitutional votes. Even though we advocate for and against issues and not elections of candidates, by silencing issue advocacy, elections would legally become a rubber-stamping process for incumbents, since their bad voting behavior would be shielded from scrutiny.
Is My State Campaign for Liberty Group Fighting These Bills?
Campaign for Liberty state groups recently fought and won battles against these bills in West Virginia, Delaware, Georgia, Texas, Minnesota, and South Carolina. But each new legislative session will bring new bills and it’s critical to be alert and prepared to stop them. That’s why we need your help.
So What Can You Do?
Check out your state Campaign for Liberty page here to see if they are currently working on this issue. (Be sure to check back often for new battles.)
Spread The Word
If you’d like to assist Campaign for Liberty state efforts, simply click on “contact coordinator” from your state page, or send an email to email@example.com.