Rumor has it that the NH Republican majority Senate is ready to dust off Republican sponsored SB 120, and push it through the legislature. The democrats could not be happier.
SB 120 is a bill that redefines what a committee is, and what classifies as an expenditure for the purposes of political speech. And it defines speech in terms of spending. Democrats might want to observe that if you can limit political speech by limiting spending that spending is equal to speech. If you are a Republican you might want to note that the Supreme Court has weighed in on this and you are on the wrong side.
If that does not sway you, then how about this?
SB 120 would define, control, and limit political speech. That is its purpose. These limiting definitions are being put in place by those already in office. It would require the average “free-speecher” to register with the state, document all expenditures, and follow all reporting rules, before speaking, under penalty of law if they think they might ‘speak’ too much (or spend too much speaking). And not just for elections. SB120 would bureaucratize “free speech” for…
Any organization of 2 or more persons that promotes the success or defeat of a candidate or candidates or measure or measures (emphasis mine,)
If you want to speak out or about a piece of legislation, or speak to any number of “measures,” (which will also include any local measure or measures in any political subdivision as well), over the course of any given year, the “cost” of doing that “speaking out,” will ultimately be a point of contention defined by whomever ultimately opposes something you said, and files a complaint… to shut you up (because SB 120 would give them the incentive and the ability to do that).
Welcome to the “New” New Hampshire.
The Republican sponsors believe they have placed a check in SB120 that would prevent the law from being used to arbitrarily confound “random or incidental first amendment expressions.” This is the free speech equivalent of Malice aforethought; it actually occurred to them that in the act of controlling political speech, that there might be civilian casualties.
Any organization that does not have as its major purpose to promote the success or defeat of a candidate or candidates or measure or measures but that makes expenditures that total $5,000 or more in a calendar year;
I’m quite certain that there was a good deal of chest-pounding over that sum. Or perhaps they just used a dart board? However the historians document this ‘struggle’ to apply actuarial science to ‘Free’ Speech, that being the perceived political risk of allowing the public to express an opinion (or more to the point the “experts” estimated value of accumulated expressions of opinion), for or against a candidate or candidates or measure or measures, the people already in power shall benefit most.
By “in power” I mean incumbents, political machines, PAC’s, Super PAC’s, well-funded non-profits, law firms, lobbyists, big business, connected political insiders, anyone with the resources to not just engage in political speech, but who could afford the time and money needed to defend themselves from accusations that they have stumbled across one of SB120’s trip-wires, or against instances where they broke the law intentionally because they knew they could pay the fine after their candidate or candidates were elected or the measure or measures had passed. (A “Right” the majority of free-speachers will necessarily be prohibited from sharing.)
SB120, intentionally or not, creates a bureaucratic wall of separation between Free and Speech that will corportize political expression in New Hampshire, allowing big players and out of state money a free reign monopoly while intimidating locals from daring to run afoul of the law.
So instead of risking the public challenges, potential fines, or likely lawsuits (which can be brought at will by the established, well-monied gatekeepers of political speech against anyone at any time ), those still remotely interested in making an investment in professional free speech, will have to donate their speech (formerly known as Free) to established campaigns, committees, PACS, or groups, which will then funnel that
money speech to established candidates and ideas.
We could think of these as ‘Speech Exchanges’ Set up (intentionally or not) by SB120.
For reasons I have yet to fathom, we are meant to assume that this scheme will someone help free speech. That it will help “Republicans.” That it will help any Republican that is not already an incumbent in New Hampshire, though, truth be told, if it does help then, it will not help them for long.
The reasons for that seem obvious, at least to me. Ninety-Nine times out of one-hundred, if Democrats want it, it’s only good for democrats. Democrats would LOVE to see SB120 become law. They would love it because they have more money, will file more complaints, recommend more lawsuits, and create a well-publicized narrative that will intimidate any bit player from thinking they can make a move on their chess board.
I’m not saying that any of this was intentional, by the way. I’m saying that the sponsors are probably too blinkered by their own arrogance, trapped in the tunnel-vision of their own circumstances, to realize the destructive power of what they are trying to do.
It wouldn’t be the first time. And it wouldn’t be the first time this year, either.
Update: You are allowed to file and report if/after you pass the financial thresholds set in the bill. This is a fine caveat for those in the know. For the average citizen or small business owner is remains an intimidating force more likley to result in silence than to encourage engagement.