Thursday, January 19, 2006

Liberal Bill Christofferson: Wanting the Law to Shut Up Political Speech

From the Texas Hold ‘Em Blogger:

Liberal Democratic activist Bill Christofferson wants to use campaign finance laws to shut up a pro-school choice commercial that has aired on Charlie Sykes morning talk radio show.

Christofferson’s argument is as follows:
Sykes is airing it on his program. He’s posted the script and audio on his weblog.

It has no disclaimer, because, he tells WisPolitics, no one is paying for it.

Actually, that’s not true. Journal Communications, and its Journal Broadcast Group, which owns WTMJ radio, is paying for it.

It is a corporation running free issue advertising on a bill that is in the legislature.

If that sounds illegal, it’s because it is. State law does not allow corporations to run issue or political advertising, although in some instances it allows them to contribute to groups that do, like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Sykes says the commercial is simply “an element of my show.”

But it’s not, and it’s not the same as parody commercials Sykes or Mark Belling have run making fun of Tom Ament or other elected officials.

This one is a real, honest-to-goodness issue ad that is trying to affect legislation and — not incidentally — do some damage to Gov. Jim Doyle, whom Sykes despises and wants out of office. The campaign for governor is already underway, which is a relevant fact as well.

Do you think Journal Broadcast lawyers reviewed and signed off on this spot? I would be amazed if they did, since the station is running an issue ad for free on taxpayer-owned airwaves. The Journal Broadcast Group does not own the airwaves; it is licensed by the government to use them.
So Christofferson wants to interpret the Sykes spot as a “corporate contribution” from Journal Communications.

But Journal Communications owns the Journal-Sentinel. Is a Journal-Sentinel editorial a campaign contribution?

If the Journal-Sentinel runs a biased story on school choice, is that “issue advertising?” Suppose a newspaper goes off on a full-blown crusade attempting to “influence legislation” — as the Chicago Tribune did on the issue of the death penalty?

Now Christofferson and the Journal-Sentinel would probably argue they are engaged in “journalism” and that government shouldn’t censor that.

But isn’t Sykes engaged in journalism? Not in the view of the Mainstream Media, since he doesn’t think like they think. But let’s say he’s engaged in “entertainment.” Do they want entertainment censored? Should the Speech Police be all over The Daily Show if it attacks one politico or another?

Thus liberals always get tangled up when they call for censorship of speech they don’t like. They have a hard time coming up with a definition of what can be shut up that is specific enough to allow them to shut up their enemies, with no collateral damage to their friends.

But they keep trying, wanting blogs stiffled, for example. And shutting up campus speech they don’t like.

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