07.01.2008 0

Colorado to Citizens: Papers, please!

  • On: 07/29/2008 17:36:24
  • In: First Amendment
  • What would you do if you saw a proposal on the local ballot that you adamantly opposed? You probably would exercise your freedom of speech to state your case, right?

    You might write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Or, you may let your local elected officials know what you think about it. Or, perhaps, if it really stuck in your crawl, you might even get together with like-minded neighbors and campaign against the ballot initiative.

    Well, that’s exactly what Karen Sampson did – and now she may be in big trouble:

    “Karen Sampson and her neighbors began distributing fliers and posting yard signs to show their distaste for the possible annexation of their neighborhood into the town of Parker in 2006.

    “She and her neighbors were shocked when a complaint was filed against them by the proponents of annexation for not registering as an issue committee with the Secretary of State before speaking out.

    “’We had no clue about these laws or how to navigate through the process,’ Sampson said. ‘We spent more defending ourselves than fighting annexation.’

    “Sampson and her attorney, Steve Simpson of the Institute for Justice, filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of State in U.S. District Court challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s campaign finance law as it applies to Sampson and her neighbors.”

    Apparently, the Free Speech overseers in Colorado have decided that if you want to talk about politics and spend more than $200, you have to register with the state as an “issue committee.” ALG News wonders if newspapers – which often write about political issues and take stands on them – too have to register… but I digress.

    Forcing citizens who wish to speak about politics to register with the state, whether or not they are spending money, strikes at the very heart of the First Amendment, as it places a burden of compliance the Founding Fathers explicitly forbid. What is it that Colorado’s politicians don’t understand about “make no law… abridging the freedom of speech”?

    Unfortunately, Colorado’s law is similar to many other States which regulate even local grassroots activism. And in opposing such an assault upon the most basic of constitutional rights, the North Country Gazette made the case abundantly clear:

    “Karen Sampson and her neighbors had never even heard of the term ‘issue committee’ until annexation proponents sued them. They simply wanted to speak out. Instead, they got a lawsuit, burdensome red tape, and the threat of legal penalties for their speech.

    “‘No one should be afraid to speak about issues or politics for fear of being sued, and no one should have to hire a lawyer to plant yard signs,’ said Sampson. ‘We’re fighting this law because we want to make sure free speech is protected and that no one else has to go through what we did.’”

    Ms. Sampson deserves a round of applause and approbation for standing up and speaking out. Thomas Jefferson, often called the Father of the First Amendment, would be thrilled by Ms. Sampson’s courageous love of liberty – and chilled by the state of Colorado’s lack of the same.

    ALG CTA: A threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. And this is but one example of unconstitutional campaign finance laws that tend to restrict and limit political speech which the First Amendment was intended to protect. In States across the Union, there are similar laws in place. We urge journalists to encourage their audiences to simply speak out and spend money on political issues in defiance of these clearly unconstitutional statutes.

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