FEC Should Foster All Political Free Speech

TO: Mai T. Dinh, Acting Assistant General Counsel, Federal Election Commission,

31 March 2004     

Dear Ms. Dinh:

It is my understanding that the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") is considering issuing new rules that would curtail nonprofit groups' making critical statements about elected federal government officials.

As things stand now, under our current (very undesirable) system of privately funded elections, US politicians can be "bought" through direct and indirect private contributions supporting their campaigns. And this "purchasing" is currently legally vouchsafed, because donating money to candidates (with certain limitations) has been interpreted as "free speech," and therefore a protected public right. Surely the FEC would want all speech regarding elections to be similarly protected--whether it comes via one individual, or through many individuals represented by a nonprofit they support; and whether it comes via words, images--or money.

Sufficient laws are already on the books to deal with nonprofits that overstep their bounds to become "lobbyist" organizations. The FEC should not involve itself further in matters involving constitutionally protected freedoms.

It would be far preferable for the FEC to work toward promulgating rules (or proposing changes to existing laws) that would require that the US have publicly funded federal elections--as is the case in other major democracies.

Alice Cherbonnier
Managing Editor
Baltimore Chronicle

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This story was published on March 31, 2004.