Let’s get one thing straight.
A group of town residents gets together to persuade their neighbors to vote for lower taxes at the local level. They spend hours generating information to persuade and hours walking streets talking with people in the community and delivering literature. They ask some friends for help covering the costs of things like printing and postage.
If you think this group of people ought to have to register with some bureaucrat in the state government and file reports about donations and expenditures, you do not believe in freedom of speech or freedom, generally. You believe in tyranny, even if it’s only petty for the time being. You believe in making it more difficult for the average citizen to affect his or her government and disadvantaging them in their fight against special interests and government insiders and ensuring that people on the government payroll (one way or another) are able to undermine any advantage that citizens might find.
It really is that simple. You cannot believe in government of, by, and for the people and also believe that some government agent (making north of $75,000 per year, plus benefits, with pension promised) should be breathing down the necks of people who are trying to get control of their labor-union-dominated municipalities.
I bring this up because I received an email from Board of Elections Director of Campaign Finance Richard Thornton saying that “it has come to the attention of this office” that the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA) “has been expending funds to support a position in the upcoming Tiverton Financial Town Referendum.” I am not a board member of the TTA, so I did not respond.
However, I did opine on Twitter: “Received a friendly reminder from BOE about filing for local budget advocacy. Doesn’t apply, here, but even so, it’s absurdly undemocratic.”
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Thornton emailed again asking for “clarification” of the meaning of my tweet. I clarified as follows:
I wasn’t aware that the Board of Elections was monitoring my Twitter feed. Have you friended me on Facebook, yet? I’m on LinkedIn and Pinterest, too, by the way, although I don’t think my resume or pictures of things I’ve seen around Rhode Island are relevant, here.
I’m happy to affirm officially that I believe state-level campaign finance laws and regulations imposed on grassroots groups attempting to affect local ballot questions in their own communities are offensive and probably unconstitutional.
That said, I am not a board member of TTA and don’t know why you included me in your original email. Strictly speaking, TTA has done no advocacy in this campaign, and certainly not enough to come anywhere near the threshold.
For my own advocacy, I hadn’t yet crossed the $1,000 threshold until (I think) today. Although I find it obscene that I have to answer to the state for these purposes, I will file whatever documents are necessary.
Whether it’s me or the group opposing me, this is absurd. Campaign finance is not some benign, feel-good civic altruism. It’s the camel’s nose of tyranny.