Colorado Amendment 65: An Assault of Free Speech

I regard the Colorado ballot measure Amendment 65 as a threat to freedom of speech. Here I collect my writings, talks, and videos on the matter. See also the information about Amendment 65 at the Secretary of State‘s web page or in the Legislative Council’s “Blue Book.”

On September 30, the Denver Post published my op-ed, “Amendment 65: An Intrusion On Our Right to Free Speech.” Following are some excerpts:

Amendment 65 . . . asks the foxes to guard the hen house. It asks incumbent politicians and their appointed bureaucrats to restrict the very speech that criticizes them. . . .

You have no right of free speech if you cannot spend your resources how you want on speech. With the possible exception of shouting over panhandlers on a street corner, every form of speech requires the expenditure of resources. . . .

Amendment 65 claims that, somehow, censorship will establish “a level playing field” for speech. But small groups are the ones that tend to get ensnared in speech restrictions, while big groups pay legions of attorneys to guide them through the inevitable loopholes. . . .

It is the government’s proper job to protect each individual’s right to speak freely, whether alone or as part of a group, not to forcibly silence some voices so that others face less competition.

On September 27, I spoke briefly at a forum in Wheat Ridge:

On October 2, I joined Amy Oliver on 1310 am to discuss Amendment 65. The complete audio file is available. One of the points I make is that, based on the premise that money corrupts politics, the last thing we should want to do is put corrupt politicians in charge of censoring speech.

Also on October 2, Mike Rosen spent his first hour discussing Amendment 65. He mentioned my Denver Post op-ed but spent most of his time discussing why the measure has no legal force.

Dave Kopel and Ken Gordon debated Amendment 65 on September 19; their hour-long discussion is well worth listening to.

I debated Gordon October 4 at an event hosted by AFGE 3607 Union. (My presentation begins at minute 16:56.) One lady asked about my views of mandatory disclosure. I answered her in brief following the formal presentation; you may read my more complete statement in an op-ed I wrote for the Colorado Springs Gazette last year. Here is the entire 44 minute debate:

October 6: Although overall I was pleased with my case when debating Ken Gordon, I decided that, on one point, I needed to further clarify my position. So I wrote an article for The Objective Standard blog, “When Politics Corrupts Money.” Here is an excerpt:

In hindsight, I should not have conceded, as I did, that “money corrupts politics” in some cases. True, some interest groups spend money on campaigns in the hope of receiving special government privileges, such as corporate welfare subsidies or coercive “protections” against their competitors. However, to concede that “money corrupts politics” wrongly implies that the modern political system is pure and noble until it is corrupted by money.

The proper way to describe the problem is that, within modern government, politics corrupts money.

Read the entire piece.

October 7: The Denver Post published three letters, two critical of me. Neither of those letters is remotely responsive to the arguments I made in my Post op-ed. Near the end of the first hour of his radio show on October 8, Mike Rosen discussed these letters and reiterated his reasons for opposing Amendment 65. Also, on October 11 the Post ran Rosen’s column criticizing the measure as “absurd and ineffectual.”

October 10: The Colorado Social Legislation Committee and the League of Women Voters of Colorado hosted a Denver forum on state ballot issues. As part of this forum, Elena Nunez of Colorado Common Cause and I debated Amendment 65:

October 11: I might mention a couple other Denver Post op-eds that support Amendment 65, one by Stephen Justino and another by Elena Nunez and Danny Katz, the primary sponsors of the measure. They do not raise any arguments that I do not address in my talks and articles. Luis Torro writes a tangentially related article in which he asks why the government should not impose “a consumer protection law for campaign ads.” The basic answer is three-fold. First, there are many ways to combat campaign deception, such as the newspaper article Torro cites. Second, libel law already does (or should) provide the legal remedy for egregious lies. Third, and perhaps most important, putting politicians and bureaucrats in charge of deciding which speech about politicians and bureaucrats is “truthful” is incredibly dangerous and inherently prone to abuse.

October 12: I had jotted down the link to Shawn Mitchell’s excellent article of a few weeks ago, “Progressive War on Speech and Liberty Continues.”

October 15: The October 12 edition of Westsider features a column by Andrea Doray, who contrasts free speech in America with oppression in various other nations. She writes:

When I tire of hearing the ads, especially the negative ones, I try to remind myself that free speech and freedom of the press make this knowledge available to me, and that I am able to make my own decisions and vote for the candidate of my eventual choice.

On October 13 I had the opportunity to debate Danny Katz of COPirg, one of the sponsors of Amendment 65, in front of the Jefferson County Democrats. I’m not sure the audio turned out well enough for me to release the video; but, anyway, I didn’t really cover any issue I haven’t covered elsewhere.

On October 14 I wrote an article for The Objective Standard, “Why Forcibly Limiting Campaign Spending is Censorship—And Why it Matters.” I focus on the expansive nature of the censorship laws in question.

I released a short video (2:45 minutes) summarizing my case against Amendment 65, “Top Ten Reasons Why Colorado Amendment 65 Is a Truly Horrible Idea.”

October 16: Watch Dave Kopel debate Elena Nunez. Kopel argues: “The fundamental point is that the First Amendment protects the right of everyone to freedom of speech. Whenever the government gets in the business of limiting freedom of speech, it will be to the benefit of the incumbent politicians.”

October 18: Today The Objective Standard published my article, “The Egalitarian Assault on Free Speech.” I explain why the left’s egalitarianism in the realm of economics has led it to advocate censorship in the realm of political speech.

Also, my debate with Ken Gordon about money in politics and Amendment 65 is now online:

October 21: This is a secondary issue, but I do think it’s an interesting detail that two main groups, the Fair Share Alliance and Common Cause, have dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into their campaign to “get big money out of politics.” See my write-up.

October 31: The Denver Post‘s Vincent Carroll offers an excellent critique of Amendment 65, pointing out it could also lead to restricting how much money individuals may spend on their own races. He writes, “Amendment 65 is a quixotic attempt to take politics out of politics by trampling on our freedom.”

November 1: In preparation for discussing campaign finance with a University of Denver class taught by Andrew Romanoff, I prepared some notes. Also, the New York Times has compiled the basic statistics about spending on the presidential race this year. Honestly I was surprised to find that the overwhelming amount of spending came from the campaigns themselves, while PACs played a relatively small role.

Also, I thought Dave Kopel aptly summarized the nature of Amendment 65 for a Collegian article: “Amendment 65 is a blank check for government censorship of political speech.”

November 2: Please watch this excellent video from Learn Liberty on campaign spending restrictions:

Image: Ari Armstrong, Hosted by Picasa