Thursday, October 16, 2008

The column where I suggest putting a bag over my head

No, not what you think. In this week's column for the Waukesha Freeman, I take a turn defending anonymous free speech.

Into that atmosphere stepped Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, which has stated its intention to regulate issue advertising. With no mandate from the Legislature, the GAB has decided it has the power to regulate this form of political advertising. And despite its confidence in its authority, it has asked its attorneys to continue making a case for such regulation.
    Of course, one aspect of the proposed regulation would be to require the identification of all donors to groups running these kinds of ads. While it seems like a reasonable move toward transparency, the requirement could have a chilling effect on free speech in Wisconsin.
    Ironically, two organizations pushing for such regulation, Common Cause and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, will not reveal who their backers are. But they will admit the effect of their efforts: less speech.

I find that as I get older I am more of a democrat (small d) and free speech advocate, and that I am less in touch with the spirit of the age.  We truly have less to fear of the government taking direct action to curb free speech than we have of supposed good intentions and good government making political speech more difficult, even impossible in some cases.  Today a Eugene Debs would have less to fear from government "censorship" as he experienced than he would running afoul of the campaign finance reform laws.