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01 December 2011

LTE: Campaign Finance Reforms

By Diana Hsieh

On Tuesday, my letter to the editor in support of Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's campaign finance reforms was published in the Denver Post. Here's the letter:

Re: "Gessler pushes rules rewrite," Nov. 24 news story.

I applaud Secretary of State Scott Gessler's reforms of Colorado's onerous campaign finance rules, despite his recent loss in court.

As an occasional political activist, I know that Colorado's campaign finance regulations are burdensome and intimidating. When Ari Armstrong and I wrote policy papers against the "personhood" amendments in 2008 and 2010, I was obliged to report $20 expenditures and contributions, as well as publish the names and addresses of our supporters. I couldn't afford to hire lawyers or accountants. I struggled to understand and comply with the law, fearing fines of $50 per day per violation.

The current rules strongly discourage ordinary people from speaking out on ballot measures, as the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recognized. Gessler's reforms, while limited, are an important step in the direction of greater freedom of speech.

Diana Hsieh, Sedalia

This letter was published in the Nov. 29 edition.
You can go to the web page to leave a comment in support of free speech. I've already replied to two early comments. The first comment said, "Money isn't speech, Diana, and if you have a problem with open elections and full disclosure, you're in the wrong country." (Lovely, no?) The next comment attempted to defend me, but wrongly, saying "it sounds as if Diana is a small political activists who is complaining about burdensome laws that are designed for political organizations, not for someone who got $20 to help offset some costs."

Here's my comment in reply:
I'm the writer of the letter. In the Secretary of State's May 2011 hearing about raising the reporting threshold for issue committees, I testified about my experiences -- my difficulties, rather -- in attempting to comply with the law. That's posted to my blog here:

http://blog.dianahsieh.com/...

I support free speech for everyone, not just for small-time activists but for large groups too. However, I am a small-time activist, and the law definitely burdens me disproportionately.

As a matter of free speech, people should be able to support and assist other people to speak with their money, without having their private information posted for all the world to see. To say that "money isn't speech" is wrong: money enables people to speak and to speak for others, and that is part and parcel of free speech. Otherwise, free speech means nothing more than my power to talk to my dogs while alone in my house.
Finally, mark your calendars:
  • Ari Armstrong and I will discuss Colorado's campaign finance laws on Wednesday, December 7th, at Liberty on the Rocks in Denver. I'll post a full announcement of this event in a few days.
  • Ari and I will also be speaking at the Thursday, December 15th, at the Secretary of State's campaign finance reform hearing in Denver. You can find details about the meeting and the proposed rule changes in this PDF. I'll post more about this hearing next week, but I'd very much appreciate anyone willing to attend the hearing in person to testify. If that's not feasible, you can submit written testimony.
For the Coalition for Secular Government, this election cycle is quickly becoming our busiest ever. The personhood movement is on the march, and to defend abortion rights, we need to defend our right to speak freely too.

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