More From Eric Dixon at http://www.NYBusinessCounsel.com
Twitter Rank #35 For Startup Advice May 2014 (#44 June 2014, #50 July 2014 -- now TRENDING UP at #41 for August 2014). Go to my professional site for solutions to your legal, business and strategic problems. Bitcoin Protocol Development -- Among the World's Legal Leaders in New Bitcoin Technology -- Top Strategic Judgment -- When You Need A Fixer -- Explore Information Protection and Cryptographic Security -- MUST-WIN: JUST DON'T LOSE -- SURVIVE!: Under Investigation? Being Sued? Handling Extreme Stress -- Corporate Issues -- Startup Issues -- Investor Issues -- Contracts To Meet Your Needs -- Opposition Research -- Trademark, Patent, Copyright -- Media and Reputation Issues -- Independent, top-notch legal, strategic and personal advice -- Extensive ghostwriting, speechwriting, book writing, issue research, press and crisis management services. Listed among the American Bar Association's Law Bloggers (Blawgers). Contact EDixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com 917-696-2442.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Is New York Attacking Free Speech?
The office of New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, has released proposed rules that would require so-called 501(c)(4) "social welfare" organizations and certain other non-profit organizations that engage in any political activity (whether issue-specific or candidate-related) to disclose their donors. Is this an attack on political free speech?
The proposed disclosure rules appear to target anonymous political speech -- that is, they intend to force any group raising and spending money on campaigns or issues to disclose who their contributors are and how much they've given. The rationale behind people wanting to be anonymous, to avoid disclosure, is not to circumvent the limits on political contributions, but rather to avoid negative publicity, reprisals, retaliation and the like. Some people will be at risk of losing business, of losing their jobs, or receiving other harassment if their political inclinations become known. There is already a chilling effect on free speech and political participation, and that's without this new rule.
Notably, the Attorney General concedes that this fear of political reprisal is legitimate. The explanation for the rules includes a provision that organizations whose donors fear reprisal if they are disclosed publicly can napply for a waiver. But this option admits that such reprisals and "blowback" can and does occur. Now, since its occurrence is admitted, doesn't it then make sense to acknowledge that there is a value to one's privacy and anonymity? Isn't there a right to anonymous speech?
And, to be real, isn't that chilling effect the very point behind this rule? Isn't this all about discouraging unpopular political speech, to kneecap your political opponents by cutting off their funding source by threatening their supporters with being revealed?
Lawyer, strategist, advisor and confidant to opinion leaders, business leaders on personal, professional and political matters. Confrontational investigative lawyer and blogger. Yale Law School graduate (1994). Serves on Board of Directors of independent economic policy think tank Financial Policy Council. Master screenwriter, speechwriter and writer. Contact me at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com or 917-696-2442.