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New York “Shut Up Law” Tries to Curb Political Spending, Infringes Free Speech

The problem of political money influencing elections has always been a tricky one, but many Americans of all ideological backgrounds realize something must be done. However, since the Supreme Court ruled the money equals speech, any effort to curtail political money could potentially undermine the First Amendment.

For example, the New York State Board of Elections will enact “emergency regulations,” according to the New York Post, “at the end of this month” which seeks to curtail the influence that corporate money has on their elections. Yet, in trying to fix this problem they have all but ensured that only well-funded political organizations will be able to get their messages out.

The new regulations, which the Post says “could become permanent,” requires that those who seek to influence elections “register as a political committee, complete the appropriate papwerwork filing for an ‘independent expenditure,’ list your donors and your treasurer and provide copies of [your political materials] to the board for its stamp of approval.”

So while well-funded PACs can hire lawyers and administrators to ensure that all this is done, a local group of concerned citizens could face fines if they distribute flyers or other political literature without first seeking the approval of the NYSBE.

This is not the only problem with these new rules. If a group of citizens wants to purchase an ad in the local paper or on a billboard with a political message – from religious groups opposing abortion to concerned parents seeking gun control – there is a chance that the NYSBE could see that as an ad for or against any candidates who make such issues a part of their campaign.

There is little chance that these rules would stand up to any level of judicial scrutiny, but the potential for abuse during this current election cycle remains.


Photo by Lyn Lomasi via Flickr

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.