Tibbetts Attacking Scott

It’s over the anonymous mailings law.

House Bill 1112 was passed on the last day of the 2008 legislative session and went into effect July 1. Under the law, candidates for state and local offices and other groups can now send out literature anonymously and be immune to liability. The legislation, originally dubbed as routine, originated with the Secretary of State’s office and was presented to clarify and simplify parts of the state’s election code.

Senator John Wiles (R-Marietta) the chairman of the Senate committee dealing with the bill, struck the section that moved the issue to the ethics commission. An article in the Atlanta Constitution stated that Wiles contends the mandated disclosure of the person or group responsible for mailing is unconstitutional.

29 comments

  1. Chris says:

    Not good. While I support anonymous speech, it is something that should be used sparingly. As we have seen all too often here on this blog, those who post anonymously tend to be the most immature, provide the least useful content, and are almost always trolls.

  2. Rpolitic says:

    Just keep in mind the papers and books and thoughts we would NOT have if anonymous speech was not protected.

  3. Rick Day says:

    Political communication is, to me, 2nd class ‘speech’ like junk mail. Hell, it IS junk mail!

    Typically either all lies, or half-truths intended to destroy an opponents life. (not just plant a seed of doubt, but dump the voter headfirst in a silo of sin-infested seed stock.)

    Farrit and I agree, not a good idea.
    Some speech is restricted. Anonymous muckraking should be as well.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    I posted a comment that refered to HB1112 to the prior front page posting. I’ll chime in here that mailers delivered via USPS are a privacy intrusion, not anonymous speech—one cannot choose to not accept them.

  5. Doug Deal says:

    Rick,

    Political communication or speech was the very thing that the first amendment was supposed to protect. You lefties usually pretend to be in favor of the 1st amendment, but apparently that only applies to smut magazines.

    If you don’t like anonymous speech, don’t read it or trust it, I don’t.

  6. Bill Simon says:

    Chris is apparently taking a cue from Mark Rountree because Rountree doesn’t like this law. Rountree would rather have someone be required to disclose who was paying for an ad (see, Newton, Joe) so he could seek to attack his character, and NEVER address the content.

  7. Rpolitic says:

    We all know full well that retribution is the biggest fear of most people when they are trying to decide if they should get involved in politics.

    I have made clear that I have no problem disclosing where something comes from, but there are others who depend on say the courts for a living and would like to be heard but are afraid to speak. That is why this is important.

  8. Rpolitic says:

    One questions to you doubters and one I wish the AJC and other rags would clear up.

    Why is it ok to have an anonymous source in a media outlet and not in politics?

  9. YourFutureLeader says:

    Scott was only a co-signer on this bill and not the sponsor who was actually Harry Geisinger, also if I recall correctly the bill went over to the Senate under Modified Structure, which I believe means that the Senate was not to change it don’t know what happened there after but it seems like multiple people screwed up and none of them would be one Austin Scott.

  10. Bill Simon says:

    “We all know full well that retribution is the biggest fear of most people when they are trying to decide if they should get involved in politics”

    Rpolitic, you make an excellent point.

    After all, had Joe Newton been able to promote what he found out about Gwinnett County Commissioner Lorraine Green’s secret deals to inflate the value of property purchased by the county and not been required to disclose his name, the Sheriff, Senator Renee Unterman, Mark Rountree, AND…whoever Someone is who paid for the illegal tapping of the GCIC database would have just had to deal with figuring out how to answer the facts of the county getting ripped-off, rather than spend their time attacking Joe Newton.

  11. Dave makes a good point. You can choose to read an anonymous editorial in the AJC (as if they’d publish anything similar to the Federalist papers these days though) but you can’t choose what comes to your house via the mailman.

    Additionally, I would think protections against slander would at least come into play here if the anonymous mail contained slanderous statements so at some point the rights of the candidates being attacked anonymously would/should come into play…

    As with a lot of bills in the legislature, this change probably is intended for one or two people. My understanding is that Wiles has a campaign associate who has gotten in trouble in the past for shady activities and that this bill, had it been in effect back then may have prevented those troubles. But I guess I should make that claim anonymously!

  12. Tea Party says:

    This bill protects ‘political operatives’, polyps, much more than it protects a candidate or citizen against retribution.

    @rpolitic:

    Vetted news sources need the limited protection anonymity offers (people get ‘outted’ all the time) otherwise nobody would blow the whistle on wrongdoings.

    I know it may be hard for the ‘polyps’ here to comprehend, these cases are of far greater consequence than a political race. (Watergate, Pentagon Papers)

    An anonymous political source would almost always be a polyp or a monied interest against the candidate. If a candidates wrongdoing is exposed by a citizen, is that citizen going to face retribution? I doubt that. If so, Moscow is closer than we think.

    I respect the good Senator from Cobb and I think this Bill is more wrong than right. The public ought not have to sort their mail according to credibility.

    I can pay for and send a totally bogus private mailing, with ‘photoshopped’ pictures, two days before a contested race, and not have to disclose myself? That is ridiculously wrong.

    Ps @ Mr. Deal: Free speech is bi-partisan, and the attempt to construe anonymity to ‘political campaign pieces’ is too narrow and subject to obvious abuses.

    GO! Rep. Austin Scott “Right-On, as usual”

  13. Tea Party says:

    @Bill Simon What if Mr. Newton followed the time honored tradition of ‘leaking’ his information to a trusted news source? He would have the protective cloak of anonymity, and no new law is needed.

    Sorry y’all, this one doesn’t pass the ‘smell test’ for me.

  14. Doug Deal says:

    TP,

    The whole point of protecting free speech is that no matter what is said, someone somewhere will think that it is an “abuse”.

    Protecting the speech of things that do not upset or offend is pointless and makes the first amendment completely lacking in purpose. It’s only purpose is to allow people to say and express what they want without retribution from the government.

    In your comment, you stated

    If a candidates wrongdoing is exposed by a citizen, is that citizen going to face retribution? I doubt that. If so, Moscow is closer than we think.

    I suppose you have not read this article.

    Again, I find it ironic that you choose a nickname that invokes the memory of patriots who relied on that very same anonymous poltical speech that you so strongly oppose.

    If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Welcome to America.

  15. Doug Deal says:

    chrisHC,

    That is ridiculous. You have no option of stopping unwanted ads, invitations to the local Baptist church, anonymous notes telling you to clean up your yard or anything else sent to your house. These things are not illegal. Making anonymous political statements sent through the mail illegal is then limited communication due to content which is a clear violation of free speech.

    As for libel, politicians have nearly zero protection against libel anyway. If something is truly libelous, they can certainly sue to clear their good name. Since the enforcement of anonymous mailing would require the ability to find mailers after the fact, the same process could be used if libel is mailed.

  16. Tea Party says:

    @Doug Deal The article you posted is indeed a chilling precedent.

    Were the bloggers libelling the official? Were they correct and retribution is being sought? If so, that is even more chilling.

    If I can send a scandalous, unfounded campaign piece, say two days before an election, and swing a vote, what matter is a lawsuit? Why bother with an Ethics Commission? Why bother with a lawsuit, the vote is in.

    I do, very personally, understand our Founding Fathers need for anonymity, my handle is not an accident. I felt the retribution effort ‘smack down’ locally on an issue here in DeKalb County. Anonymity is overrated on blogs.

    I remain unconvinced this law is either necessary or good and respect your opinion.

  17. Bill Simon says:

    Tea Party,

    There ARE no “trusted sources”…don’t you get that?

    You think the newspapers are all chock-full of neutral-sitting reporters eager to jump on the “hottest tip” of the week story?

    You are DREAMING.

    As you can very well see, you can never rely on the “media” to get stories out…they are too busy on their OWN agendas.

    Joe Newton was a citizen who got raked across the coals for speaking his mind.

    And, the way he was treated by the scumbags in Gwinnett, to YOU, “doesn’t pass the smell test?”

    Methinks you have already cut your nose off to spite your face…so, no wonder you are unable to “smell” anything.

  18. Tea Party says:

    @Bill ‘pol op’ Simon

    We should rely on the high ethical standards, and beyond reproach tactics of political operatives to get our news, Bill?

    I despise our cock-so-poly as much as any free-thinker can, Bill Simon, but you support a ‘bite-the-dust’ legislative solution to let ‘political operatives’ conduct secret mailers to get me info on a candidate? I can sort it out at the mailbox?

    My schnozz is just fine, you go watch the henhouse.

    Go sell some : Campaign Promotional Products

    Direct-Mail Postcard ‘Fridge Magnets (deliver your name to every voting household’s refrigerator…for a lot less money than the standard zillion mailpieces normally sent)

    Print & Mailhouse Services
    Voter Mailing and Walk Lists
    Auto/Robo-Calls
    Polls & Surveys

    Joe Newton could have ‘leaked’ this this story and gotten results, it was way to big to stay buried.

  19. Tea Party says:

    EPILOGUE : Joe Newton

    The fact is, Folks, I don’t think we need any “more laws” on the books to prevent this kind of crap from happening. What we need is law-abiding citizens and law-abiding peace officers to follow their damn oaths of office.

    -Bill Simon

    C’mon, man, be consistent. . .

  20. Bill Simon says:

    TP,

    “I despise our cock-so-poly as much as any free-thinker can, Bill Simon, but you support a ‘bite-the-dust’ legislative solution to let ‘political operatives’ conduct secret mailers to get me info on a candidate? I can sort it out at the mailbox?”

    What are you saying, TP? You mean you CANNOT sort it out at the mailbox?

    How about if we just made it possible for Mommy Government to spoon-feed you EVERYTHING so that you can make-up your own mind on whatever tough decision you are facing?

    AND, again, you prove you know nothing about how the media operates.

    Newton was able to get Channel 46 on it. BUT, all the other news bureaus refused to take it up. Channel 46 may have 20% of the viewership, and they have NO newspaper like the Coxopoloy does.

    TP, look at my thumb…Gee, you’re…

  21. Rpolitic says:

    TP how about the fact the local papers are scared of the judges and sheriff’s who diecide where the legal ads go and refuse to run anything but puff pieces and not investigate the truth. This is espcially true in the outer donut areas like Bartow, Forsyth, Cherokee, Paulidng that coudl have other media sources vie for the legal ads but they don’t have a chance because the local media is paid for with the government contracts.

  22. John Konop says:

    Rpolitic

    Was this not off the issues you were arrested for and pleaded out?

    Do you not work for John Wiles?

    Should John Wiles disclosed your relationship prior to submitting this bill?

  23. Mad Dog says:

    Wow!

    The neighborhood hasn’t gotten any better since the last time I visited. I’ve always been a fan of Bill Simon. He can been as funny as anyone on this blog and he’s always been honest in his opinion of me. Just don’t ask me to repeat that opinion. Just kidding.

    I’m not sure I understand where Bill is on this issue of campaign finance, disclosure, and transparency in government.

    Some folks seem to think this is a free speech issue. I’ll come back to that.

    If I were a corrupt candidate, I could buy a mailer and send it without putting my name on it, correct? I would only disclosure after paying the printing and mailing bill. Which could be after the election.

    If I were a corrupt activist, I could use any amount of money to attack incumbents and candidates. And, I would never have to disclose to anyone my role, the source of my funds, or the my issue.

    Now, could a Congressman use his office money to buy a mailer and leave no trace to track back to his government funds?

    I could send out mailers that appear to be Democratic with the intention of harming specific Democratic candidates. That does get done now. Think of getting an endorsement from a gay rights group for your stance on gay marriage if you’re running in the 50th Senate. Some help that would be, eh?

    Republicans might also have gotten some unwanted help from questionable advocates in the past.

    Where’s the outrage for personal responsibility, honor, honesty, Constitutional duty …

    Yes, political speech is free. If you’re willing to stand up and take the heat.

    If you’re not willing to take the heat, then your political speech is just cheap.

  24. Tea Party says:

    @rpolitic

    You mention a good point, echoed by Bill, ‘ what if the local press is in the bag’ with the status quo.

    My exclusive point is the wrong of having a compromised press, if that is truly the case, is NOT resolved by allowing ‘blind’ mailers.

    I understand your points, tho’ clearly if you are part of the good Cobb Senators team, your voice becomes somwhat disingenuous.

    IMHO, the Bill is going to be overturned. Trying to correct a situation whereby you get your story out by allowing ‘blind’ mailers seems ineffectual.

    Justifying the use of bad means to a good end usually means a bad ending.

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