Santorum Versus Free Speech, Again

Mar 272012

Rick Santorum wants to ban hard-core pornography:

Rick Santorum wants to put an end to the distribution of pornography in the United States.

“America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography,” Santorum’s official website reads. “Pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships. It contributes to misogyny and violence against women. It is a contributing factor to prostitution and sex trafficking.” The former Pennsylvania senator states that, “as a parent, I am concerned about the widespread distribution of illegal obscene pornography and its profound effects on our culture.”

Santorum criticized the Obama administration for turning “a blind eye … to the scourge of pornography” and for refusing to enforce obscenity laws. “If elected President, I will appoint an Attorney General who will do so,” Santorum writes. “While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum Administration.”

In fact, America is suffering a pandemic of harm from meddling statist politicians, particularly of the theocratic variety, such as … Rick Santorum!

Oh, and if that’s not alarming enough, see for yourself how preacher Chris Terry introduces Rick Santorum:

For more, see Pastor Dennis Terry Introduces Rick Santorum, Tells Liberals and Non-Christians to ‘Get Out’ of America.

Magic Words Test Upheld by Colorado Supreme Court

Feb 242012

This is really good news: Colorado Supreme Court upholds “magic words” test for political spending by 527s. That sounds strange, but here’s what it means:

Handing political organizations known as 527s a big victory heading into the 2012 election, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the groups should not be limited in how much money they may accept from donors if their political advertisements don’t include so-called magic words such as “vote for” or “elect.”

Ads that simply state a candidate’s position on an issue or that include flattering — or not-so flattering — things about a candidate but don’t include the “magic words” established in an earlier U.S. Supreme Court ruling are considered free speech, the unanimous court found.

Attorney Mario Nicolais, who argued before the court on behalf of the Senate Majority Fund and the Colorado Leadership Fund, called the case “a complete victory for the defendants and free speech.”

This seems to be a really great ruling for free speech in Colorado’s elections! I loved this quote from “attorney Jason Dunn, who represents the Colorado Leadership Fund”:

“Voters clearly wanted a bright line as to when expressing their opinion about issues of the day crosses into regulated political speech. To do otherwise would chill political speech, resulting in everyday citizens being unable to know when simply expressing their opinion on issues of the day becomes regulated speech subject to the complex world of campaign-finance law and its penalties for any misstep.”

So true!

You can read the whole story here.

Vince Carroll on SuperPACs

Feb 132012

Vince Carroll recently published an excellent column in the Denver Post in defense of free speech in elections… against the current hue and cry against SuperPACs. Here’s a taste:

The primary examples of a Super PAC’s handiwork that The Times bothered to mention in its “septic tanks” editorial were ads in Iowa by supporters of Mitt Romney “attacking Mr. Gingrich for his government lobbying and ethics violations.” It’s fine, you see, for The Times — a very big corporation indeed — to point out Newt Gingrich’s “government lobbying and ethics violations” during the peak of a campaign, but let a few private individuals pool their money to make the same case in a negative ad and that is an intolerable state of affairs.

Go read the whole thing.

Candidates: Hire A Campaign Finance Director First

Feb 102012

The Campaign Doctor newsletter offers marketing tip for campaigns. I subscribe because their advice is often useful for thinking about how to best promote political ideas. A recent issue offered some disturbingly useful advice: a candidate should hire a campaign finance manager first, before anyone else. Yes, that’s just how onerous our campaign finance laws are.

How to determine who and what to hire for your campaign
By Chris Ingram

Most campaigns have limited resources. In today’s trying economy, scarce dollars requires even more prioritizing of expenditures than ever before.

Many candidates start their campaign with the idea that they will hire a pollster, a press secretary, a campaign manager, and so on – until they realize those guys (and gals) cost money. In most areas, anyone running for county commission, town council, school board, or the like ends up being their own manager, press secretary – I’ve even seen a few try to be their own pollster!

My advice to candidates is always this: the first person any campaign should hire is not a strategist, manager, or pollster – it’s a good accountant who will file their campaign finance reports. I also advise them not to rely on a friends or relatives who are accountants who will do it for free.

Allow your accountant friend or family member to serve as your campaign treasurer who signs the reports if you want, but you should pay a professional to do the grunt work and keep you out of trouble. And since you’re a paying client, they will return your phone calls, which free labor doesn’t always do.

The person in this role could be called lots of things, but I would call them your campaign finance compliance officer. Ideally they have familiarity with campaign finance law as well as accounting. This person is the most invaluable person on your campaign team and worth every penny. Filing bad campaign finance reports can be embarrassing, costly, distracting, and can result in civil fines and even criminal prosecution.

So when it comes to tracking donations, expenditures, campaign finance law, and disclosure reports, don’t skimp, pay up and hire a good campaign finance compliance officer.

Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, and National Review online.

Thanks to campaign finance laws, a candidate dare not move without a hired accountant to track and report contributions. That’s the predictable effect of demanding “transparency” (read: onerous reports) and “accountability” (read: hefty fines) in elections.

(If you want to sign up for the newsletter, you can do so here.)

Jan 242012

In this video, Rick Santorum answers a question on SOPA. He doesn’t express an opinion about the bill, but he does explain his view that he regards all rights as limited and subject to regulation, including free speech rights:

Here are some highlights, but I recommend listening to the whole video:

My general feeling is that we have a free market and a free market should work. But like any freedom, there has to be regulation. We’re not unlimited in any right, even rights that we have within our Constitution: they’re not unlimited rights. There is, and can be, limitations on that. Freedom of speech, there are things that you can’t say: you can’t cry “fire” in a crowded theater. There are limitations to all freedom: there are no absolute rights. There are rights that have responsibilities that come with them. If you abuse those rights — piracy — if you abuse those rights, then you have a consequence of abusing that right. …

I would make the case that … there are limits to freedom on the internet. The internet is a powerful source for good. And, as we all know, it has been a powerful source for bad in this country. So the idea that we should just “hands-off” — and it’s a moral-free zone, it’s a regulation free-zone, and that people should be able to do whatever they want — I don’t know of any other zone in America where that’s the case. Why should the internet be different than everything else?

So I would say that responsible, well-[something], discussed regulation — if there is abuse, taking someone’s private property — if there is abuse, as there is in pornography and a lot of other areas where we are destroying the moral fabric of our country — to say, “well, it’s just tough, let people to whatever they want — let a 12 year old — let them do whatever they want.”

There are limitations that have to be put in place because your free speech rights can be incredibly harmful to someone else. Your desire to go a grab something that doesn’t belong to you can be very harmful to someone else. …

Rick Santorum views liberty as mere license to indulge in whims, including stealing from others. That’s an utterly corrupt conception of rights. A person does not have the right to violate the rights of others! Yet on Santorum’s view, protecting intellectual property from theft is on par with banning pornography to protect the moral fabric of society. They’re both a matter of limiting rights to prevent harm to others.

Oy vey.

Hsieh PJM OpEd: SOPA, Guns, and Freedom

Jan 202012

The 1/19/2012 edition of PJMedia published my OpEd, “SOPA, Guns, and Freedom“.

I open with the following question:

Q: What does the proposed SOPA (“Stop Online Piracy Act”) legislation have in common with gun control?

A: Both would punish the innocent for the bad acts of a guilty few.

Click through to read more on how this applies to SOPA, gun control, freedom, and limited government.

For more detailed discussion on how SOPA could have “broken the Internet”, technically-minded readers might enjoy Paul Vixie’s article from 1/11/2012, “Refusing REFUSED“. Because of the intense political pressure from anti-SOPA advocates, some legislators have proposed a modified version of SOPA that they claim will avoid some of these technical problems.

Diana has more links and information about SOPA in her recent webcast on this topic, “SOPA and Online Piracy“.

(Note: This OpEd was written the day before the 1/18/2012 “blackout” and subsequent political events.)

MPAA on the SOPA/PIPA Blackout

Jan 192012

Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) released the following statement (PDF) about the blackout of web sites to protest SOPA and PIPA. (Emphasis added by me.)

Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.

It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.

A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals. It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”

Such words, particularly the paragraph in bold, could be straight from the mouth of that slimy villain Bertram Scudder of Atlas Shrugged. “The gall of these companies to stop offering their free services to the world for so much as a single day! What appalling ingratitude to the state, which is already is so generous in permitting them to operate at all! As for all that disinformation they’re spreading… we’ll have to do something about that.”

Or, as I saw on Facebook:

The MPAA calls the Internet going dark in protest of SOPA and PIPA an “abuse of power.” In related news, the Eye of Sauron accuses hobbits of terrorism.

As I stated in my webcast discussion of SOPA and PIPA, to defend intellectual property rights is hugely important. However, such must be done in the context of a general understanding of and respect for individual rights, including rights to property, contract, and free speech.

It’s a moral crime to attempt to protect some rights by willfully violating other rights. Alas, the MPAA doesn’t or won’t understand that.

Blackout Your Site for SOPA

Jan 172012

As I explain in this video from Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, the proposed “SOPA” and “PIPA” bills currently under consideration would threaten every web site with shut-down, if that web site contains such much as a single link to copyrighted material anywhere, even if not posted by the owner. These bills, if passed, would break the fundamental architecture of the internet, and enable Chinese-style censorship of the internet.

Tomorrow, a slew of large and small web sites will be blacking themselves out in protest. You can join that by blacking out your own blog — or, more precisely, redirecting it to a protest page.

SopaStrike offers code that you can add somewhere between the

and tags of your blog:

However, that code didn’t work for me. Blogger kept giving me errors. So tomorrow, I’m going to manually add the following code between my

and tags:

That will redirect the page to after two seconds. I’ll add it in the morning, then remove it in the evening.

Please consider doing the same — or at least blogging about the issue. Also, don’t forget to e-mail and call your own representatives! You can find their contact information using this form.

Video: SOPA and Online Piracy

Jan 172012

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed SOPA and online piracy. The question was:

Should SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) be supported or opposed? SOPA was recently introduced to the US House of Representatives, then shelved temporarily, and many people are urging businesses and their representatives to oppose it. Would the bill promote prosperity and creativity by protecting copyright? Or does it justify internet censorship and cripple free access of information through online media?

My answer, in brief:

SOPA and PIPA claim to protect copyright, but in fact, they’d break the fundamental architecture of the internet, subject innocent people to major legal battles, destroy large internet sites, and establish government control over the internet. To top it off, these laws would not stop pirates. They should be opposed.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

All posted webcast videos can be found in the Webcast Archives and on my YouTube channel.

Update: While SOPA (the House bill) seems to be comatose, PIPA (the Senate bill) is still alive and kicking. Please call and e-mail your senators! You can also blackout your site, which I’ll be doing tomorrow.

News Media on Colorado’s Campaign Finance Reforms

Dec 262011

The December 15th hearing on campaign finance reform attracted a fair bit of news coverage.

(1) An AP story by Kristen Wyatt was published in the Pueblo Chieftain and the Aspen Times so far. I’m quoted in it:

“They will be helpful for people like me, who are part-time activists, so they don’t lose their shirts in a campaign-finance lawsuit,” said Diana Hsieh, who campaigned last year against an unsuccessful ballot measure that would have banned abortion.

I’d hoped to see the article appear in more venues — not just because I’m quoted — but because the article was a good and fair account of the debate over the proposed rule changes. But alas, that seems unlikely to happen now.

(2) In an article in the Durango Herald, Ari Armstrong was quoted (although wrongly identified), followed by that horrid quote from Senator Morse:

“I think it’s a travesty and a mockery of the First Amendment that Colorado citizens are being dragged into court for daring to engage in the political process,” said Ari Armstrong, a libertarian activist from Grand Junction.

But state Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said people who want to run campaigns that persuade others how to vote need to follow the rules of transparency. “Turns out that complying with these things is complicated and does take a lawyer, but that’s the price of transparency,” Morse said.

(3) The article in the Denver Post focused on the very confusing debate about the filing deadlines.

(4) Also, since I don’t think that I blogged about it before, but in early December, Vince Carroll penned an excellent op-ed in support of Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. It’s worth a read.

If you want to keep up with the news on this topic, you can follow the Facebook page that I’ve created:

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