I have been telling you for a year now that sooner or later the left was going to try to use the courts to muzzle and shut down talk radio. Well, it's happened. It happened in Seattle, Washington....While we worry about whether the government might know what books we borrow from the library, free speech gets hammered. How? By being forced to report on the value of the "contribution" the broadcaster may run afoul of the limits on free political speech imposed by McCain-Feingold. To avoid such a result, the announcers can, perhaps, discuss safe topics such as the weather and the latest fashion trends... Note that newspapers face no such limits.
Here's what happened. Washington recently enacted a 9.5-cent-per-gallon tax hike on gasoline. Two talk show hosts on Seattle's KVI were promoting Initiative 912 for the next election ballot in Washington. I-912 would repeal that gas tax hike. The pro-tax crowd didn't like it one little bit that these two talk show hosts were speaking out against their tax hike, so they filed a complaint and went to the judge. Last Friday Judge Christopher Wickham ruled that KVI must report the commercial value of any time these two talk show hosts spend talking about I-912 as an in-kind political contribution. This, of course, shuts down these two hosts. This effectively ends any conversation on the matter on John Carlson's and Kirby Wilbur's talk show.
This is just the beginning. Now that they have a success under their belts the left will move to expand their victory ... but timing will be crucial. If I was planning strategy for the left on this one I would tell them to wait until just before the 2008 presidential election before they try to use the campaign finance reform act, and this Seattle precedent, to shut down political talk radio. If they were to make their move any earlier they would run the risk of the Republican Congress passing some revisions to the campaign finance reform act to thwart their scheme.
And please ... just please ... don't tell me that the U.S. Supreme Court will rush in to protect First Amendment free speech rights here. Which Supreme Court are you talking about? The Supreme Court that ruled the campaign finance reform act constitutional in the first place? The same Supreme Court that virtually destroyed the concept of private property rights just a few weeks ago? That Supreme Court? Give me a break.
Now .. before we move on here, one reminder. Though this ruling from Washington state was based on state campaign finance reform laws ... those laws are very much like the McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act that was passed by a Republican House of Representatives and a Republican Senate. It was then signed into law by a Republican President. This Washington decision will only embolden those who want to use McCain Feingold to shut down talk radio. Aren't we all just so proud of our elected Republicans right now?
Fight to repeal McCain-Feingold and its state enacted babies.