Monday, November 09, 2015

Gov. Matt Bevin should clarify free speech rights

The Center for Public Integrity hired journalists in all fifty states to fill out report cards purporting to grade how good state governments are at keeping themselves honest. Frankfort's Stumbocrats ranked ninth this year, but that's not the funniest part.

The funniest part of this "integrity study" is that Kentucky's highest grade and highest rank came as a result of our campaign finance laws, which violate our Constitution.

Kentucky is the only state in the nation which guarantees freedom of public expression of political ideas, limits personal contributions -- and forbids corporate contributions -- to political candidates and does not exempt corporate media outlets from these limitations. KRS 121.015 defines a contribution to a candidate as a "thing of value" for the benefit of a candidate and exempts services provided "without compensation by individuals volunteering a portion or all of their time." Section 8 of the Kentucky Constitution forbids the existence of any law which restrains the right to speak, write or print. Corporate media reports, stories, editorials and endorsements are clearly things of value for which writers and reporters are paid. Since they gain wide distribution and are often easily worth more than the $1000 campaign contribution limit, either the contribution limit or the corporate speech are forbidden.

The language of Section 8 is clear: "no law shall ever be made to restrain the right" to speak right and print.

Senate Bill 62 in 2009 sought to exempt "news stories, commentary or editorials by the media." The bill failed.