Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Incumbent Protection Act Filed In Frankfort

Rep. Bill Farmer (R-Lexington) has pre-filed a bill that would criminalize the use of a person's name or picture in advertising without consent. I guess this could be defended as an effort to eliminate negative campaign ads. If that is the idea, then it is a stupid one.

If there is a problem with an incumbent, a challenger's ability to point that out is severely hampered under this bill. Saying "Ben Chandler votes like an anti-capitalist tree-hugging enviromaniac" might impress upon voters the need to explore Rep. Chandler's sorry track record. But having to say "The current occupant of the Sixth Congressional district seat votes like an anti-capitalist tree-hugging enviromaniac" shackles the opponent and forces the voter to figure out who is being outed for bad votes in Congress on oil exploration issues that could help lower prices at the gas pump.

UPDATE: I spoke to Rep. Farmer. He said that he didn't mean for the bill to come out so broad in its scope, but I'm not sure I feel much better about the explanation for what he did intend. He said the bill was in response to a local Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps clone who put pictures of a dead Marine on his website. Rep. Farmer says that an Oklahoma bill in a related case caused a similar picture to be removed from a website produced there. Rep. Farmer said the bill will be re-written so that it doesn't affect political candidates. I remain concerned about the apparent abridgement of Free Speech.

By the way, I would have missed this one without the good work of Caleb Brown at His site is terrific.