Campaign regulation bills are flying in the Kansas Statehouse from the governmental ethics office, the gay lobby and Kansas A.G. Steve Six. All would impinge on 1st amendment protected free speech and some would even silence KFL during the critical election seasons.
We defeated (at least temporarily) SB 456, are concerned about SB 563 (placing judges under campaign law) and strongly oppose HB 2082 (formerly SB 418) which has been whisked through committee and awaits a Senate vote. UPDATE: March 23: The Senate debated new 2079 (old SB 563) and failed to attach HB 2082 to it, by a vote of 18-21. HB 2079 is on hold.
HB 2082 violates Court rulings that separate direct electioneering from unregulated free speech during the election season.
“Issue advocacy” is what policy groups do to educate the public without advocating the specific election or defeat of those candidates. This includes, but is not limited to, comprehensive voting guides, candidate forums and newsletters discussing legislative actions.
Such “issue advocacy” does not function as an ‘in-kind’ political donation and need not be regulated. The government is not allowed to compel issue-advocacy groups to register their members or limit their monetary actions.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the government –in the interest of preventing campaign corruption– should only regulate actions that are unambiguously related to the campaign of a particular candidate.
Yet HB 2082, would undo that court-defined wall of separation (between free speech and electioneering) and could force the names of all those involved in our educational efforts to be reported. For a variety of reasons, the Court forbids this invasion of privacy, including the fact that disclosure inhibits participation.
The Courts have said that while the government may assert a right to know who are the donors to PACs, it may not do so for membership lists. Kansans for Life faced a similar impermissible Kansas law (seeking names) a few decades back, and challenged and won a lawsuit against it.
Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people. Instead of trying to intimidate law-abiding advocacy groups like KFL, the legislature should improve their own accountability by making available to the public transcriptions of all their committee meetings (whether hand-written, typed, video-taped or live internet broadcasted).