Leadership flows from the top. If the leaders of our government respect their fellow Americans, that respect filters down to the state and local level. If our federal government is out of control, we can expect our local government to be moving in that direction.
Today’s Wall Street Journal posted an editorial (there is no link–it is subscribers only) entitled, “Disclosure as a Political Weapon,” The article relates the experience of Robin Ferris, a resident of Puyallup, Washington. Ms. Ferris campaigned to recall former Pierce County treasurer Dale Washam. She charged Mr. Washam with mistreatment of employees, abuse of government resources, and other misdeeds. There is a state law that limits the amount voters can donate to a recall campaign to $800. Ms. Ferris hired the Institute for Justice (IJ) to challenge the law on a pro bono basis. The IJ won the case., but that wasn’t the end of the story. The Washington state Public Disclosure Commission threatened to fine Ms. Ferris more than $500,000 for failing to report the pro bono work of the IJ as an in-kind contribution to her recall campaign, stating that the ‘contribution’ should have been listed in the campaign’s public disclosures. The Commission had previously threatened a pro-life group, Family Pac, with similar action after losing a referenda campaign in 2010.
So why should we be concerned about this? Keep in mind the recent Internal Revenue Service scandal regarding conservative groups, and consider that pro bono legal services as political contributions could cost many groups their 501 (c) (3) status. Organizations with the 501(c) (3) status are prohibited from direct engagement with political campaigns. Included in these groups are such politically diverse organizations as the ACLU and the ACLJ. Without these organizations, only wealthy Americans would be able to challenge the actions of the government.
The article concludes:
Democrats and their media allies have made a crusade of more disclosure as a way to discourage political spending by businesses. But as the Institute for Justices’s tax-exempt jeopardy shows, disclosure is a weapon that can be used to silence many groups, including those that fight for civil rights and legal due process. It’s another example of liberals trampling on liberal principles.
Those of us who are conservatives need to remember that we have to guard all of our rights all of the time. It seems that there are those in America who choose winning elections over free speech.