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02 October 2012

Ari Armstrong: Free Speech Versus Amendment 65

By Diana Hsieh

Ari Armstrong published an excellent op-ed in Sunday's Denver Post against the campaign finance measure on Colorado's ballot, Amendment 65. The whole op-ed is worth reading, but I particularly enjoyed his argument that restrictions on campaign spending are restrictions on speech. He writes:

Voters must observe that limiting campaign spending means limiting spending on speech.

You have no right of free speech if you cannot spend your resources how you want on speech. With the possible exception of shouting over panhandlers on a street corner, every form of speech requires the expenditure of resources.

To write for an audience, you need computers, Internet connections, copy machines, books, or newspapers. To speak, you need microphones, podcasts, film equipment, radio signals, or television transmissions. Spending money on speech is part of speaking. Controlling spending on speech is controlling speech itself.

Yes! That's exactly why free speech depends on property rights -- and the "dictators of the proletariat" understood that. The Soviet Union didn't ban the free press directly in its early years: it simply nationalized all printing presses.

Ari then observes:

The very idea that government should attempt, through force, to "level the playing field" in the realm of communication and ideas is pernicious. It is the government's proper job to protect each individual's right to speak freely, whether alone or as part of a group, not to forcibly silence some voices so that others face less competition.

Certainly, I've felt that heavy burden in speaking against Colorado's "personhood" amendments in 2008 and 2010, as I described in detail in my December 2011 testimony. No advocate of campaign finance regulations has ever directly addressed the huge contradiction between their stated goals with campaign finance regulations and my experience as an ordinary citizen attempting to speak out. It's infuriating.

In addition to this excellent op-ed, Ari gave this short speech on Amendment 65 at a local forum on the election:



Ari deserves the thanks of every Colorado resident for his work advocating our rights to speak freely!

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