How about we amend HB 1704 to stifle some policial speech while we’re at it?

by Steve MacDonald

Will HB 1704 intimidate political speechI just shot off a quick email to my New Hampshire State Senator this morning.  I do not know his stance on this yet, but I have some questions about language added, via amendment, to HB 1704, regarding political speech.   I find the amendment language confusing.

I am not certain of the purpose, or if this amendment even achieves that purpose, whatever it is.  And most importantly, it sounds to me like an effort to stifle political speech by interjecting bureaucratic nonsense, while simultaneously encouraging speech intimidation through the implied threat of failing to comply.  This “threat” would come through the ever-present risk of third party complaints of potential violations that would keep people from speaking out for fear of having to lawyer up to defend their political speech against members of the General Court.

I was against it when Maggie ‘The Red” Hassan and Kathy ‘Lawsuit” Sullivan tried it.  I am going to simply state that I am against this becasue it looks like an effort to not just regulate but to complicate free speech, and I do not much care who is trying to do it.  I will do what I can to stop it.

(I will post an update when I have clarification from my State Senator on his position, and or explanation of this new language.)

Senator White,

I have a few questions about the amendment to HB 1704-FN.  It appears to me to include language that would make it difficult to engage in political speech about members or candidates to the General Court.

- “Any political committee whose spending…”  suggests that by ‘spending’ you might be considered a committee and then have to register as such, before you even start leaping through hoops to engage in free speech.

- What is meant by “members…who have not filed for office..”  I find this confusing.

- How does one define the “value” of the ‘distribution’ of the speech for the purpose of determining the need for compliance, and therefore registration, and then jumping through hoops to exercise your right to free speech?  Using the internet as an example, how do we prevent lawsuit-filing opponents from manufacturing complaints of violations–simply to intimidate or stifle speech by ensuring it never happens–based on presumptions of value assigned arbitrarily to any blogger, commenter, or at any web presence that uses the internet to make critical statements about members of the general court “who have not filed for office.”  And the apparent value of the on-line speech could change based on other factors not within the control of the speaker, even if they could figure out what speech was being regulated.

- What exactly is the point of this new Section?

The New Section

664:6-a Reports of Spending on Information Critical of General Court Members. Any political committee whose spending on distribution of information critical of a member of the general court who has not filed for office, in aggregate, exceeds $500 shall file an itemized statement with the secretary of state not later than 24 hours after such spending, and thereafter each time a further $500 is spent. Such itemized statements shall cover the period during which a total of $500 was spent. Each statement shall contain each date when such money was spent; the name and address of the person paid; the name of the member of the general court mentioned in the information distributed; the amount of each payment; the purpose of each payment; and the aggregate amount of all previous payments. If the payment is made for information critical of more than one member of the general court, the statement made under this paragraph shall allocate the way in which the payment was made among the members on a reasonable basis. For the purposes of this paragraph, “reasonable basis” means a statement which reflects the burden reasonably expected to be suffered by each member. The filing requirements of this paragraph shall be in addition to all other filing requirements, and shall not be limited to the filing periods during which expenditures must otherwise be reported.

Thank you for your time.

Steve Mac Donald
Merrimack, NH
nh.steve@yahoo.com

 

Penalties are outlined in the amendment as equal to 25% of whatever unregistered or reported speech was deemed to have occurred.  Talk about chilling.  Kill this amendment now.

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