Thursday, November 13, 2008

Remember the good old days when you could say something without a judge's approval?

If Clemenceau were alive today, he'd tell us that Democracy is too important to be left to the judges. Retired or not, judges are deciding what you can say when you can say it and how you will say it. Last I checked, that's not the first amendment I know.

From my column in today's Waukesha Freeman*:

On Tuesday, Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, a group of retired judges appointed to oversee Wisconsin’s elections, decided it would require organizations that do issue advertising during a political campaign to disclose their donors. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, this move was immediately applauded by Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Of course, his donors remain unknown at press time.

The final rules for such disclosure have not been approved yet, and any such rules would also have to be approved by the Legislature.

The rules will also face swift challenge in the courts. The Coalition for America’s Families has already promised a challenge on First Amendment grounds.

CFAF learned the hard way during the last election what happens when speech is subject to government approval. It took an appeals court to allow their radio ads to run after a Gov. Jim Doyle-appointed judge ordered them stopped. Judge Lister’s order was an unprecedented attempt at prior restraint of free speech.

So is the action Tuesday of the Government Accountability Board.

When the new rules are sent to the Legislature for approval, the Legislature has an obligation to remind the Government Accountability Board that our First Amendment rights are too important to be left to the judges.

* Best use of fifty cents since the vibrating bed in the motel room.