Coalitions Unite Against SB 127 in Letter to Governor Deal

Jason Pye wrote last night about the crusade to silence dissent by the Republicans in the House. Today, a coalition of Georgia-based and national nonprofits have released a letter of opposition to SB 127, which includes a problematic section passed by the House that could deter these organizations from engaging in paid issue advocacy 180 days from an election.

Signers to the letter include representatives from Georgia Tea Party Patriots, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and Americans for Tax Reform. The letter is below.

April 2, 2015

RE: URGENT CONCERNS WITH SB 127

Dear Legislative Conferees and Governor Nathan Deal,

We, the undersigned organizations, have grave concerns about the House substitute to
Senate Bill 127, state ethics and elections rules. As amended, the legislation will have a
chilling effect on free speech in Georgia by restricting the ability of nonprofit organizations
to engage in public debates and political discourse.

In the waning hours of the Georgia General Assembly, there have been several concerning
developments, but none more concerning than Senate Bill 127’s tortured substitutions and
parliamentary maneuvers. If passed, Section 19 of SB 127 will profoundly redefine the ability
of advocacy groups in Georgia to communicate with the voting public during the electoral
process. SB 127 now is remarkably similar to recent legislation pushed by former Speaker
Nancy Pelosi in Washington, D.C. designed to silence advocacy groups from educating the
voting public. Fortunately, it didn’t pass at the federal level.

The restrictions on “paid issue advocacy” outlined in SB 127 exist nowhere else in
the nation. In expanding the definition of “communications” nonprofits can employ to
educate the public on their position on a wide range of issues, this bill seeks to restrict civic
engagement from organizations across the political spectrum.
This legislation adds blog posts, opinion editorials, letters to the editor, legislative
scorecards, emails and other correspondence to a list of communications subjected to
restrictions within 180 days of elections in Georgia. That extended period of time essentially
restricts nonprofits from expressing their First Amendment rights from January to
November in any election year without the threat of demands to disclose the members and
donors of organizations who participate in public dialogues.
The 1958 Supreme Court case of NAACP v. Alabama put a stop to this type of onerous
legislative restriction on free speech and free association. The Court’s decision to provide for
“immunity from state scrutiny” for organizations like the NAACP at the time guaranteed an
important protection on First Amendment rights. The case protected members of
organizations from intimidation and harassment. The 2010 case of Citizens United v. FEC
further restored free-speech protections for non-profit organizations.
SB 127 would tear down those constitutionally protected rights, for individuals and
organizations.
If this bill is signed into law, Georgia would restrict free speech and association more so than
any other state in the nation. SB 127 stands to hurt not only the organizations who
participate in public discourse but the voters, taxpayers, and residents of Georgia who will
no longer be entitled to know where elected officials truly stand on important public policy
issues.
The clandestine and confusing efforts to advance SB 127 not only make for bad public
policy, but are seen by members of impacted organizations as a legislative weapon intended
to silence dissenting voices.
We strongly urge you to correct or defeat SB 127 and any other effort to promote similarly
heavy-handed public policy.

Sincerely,
Linda Fowler
Georgia Tea Party Patriots
Teresa Tatum
Georgia Tea Party Patriots
Debbie Dooley
Atlanta Tea Party & Georgia Tea Party Patriots

Jenny Beth Martin
Co-Founder Tea Party Patriots
Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund

Jeanne Seaver
Chairman/ President Georgia Grassroots Coalition

Erick Erickson
Editor RedState.com

Tim Head
Executive Director Faith and Freedom Coalition

Jason Pye
Director of Messaging/ Georgia Resident
FreedomWorks

David Bossie
President and Chairman Citizens United

Marjorie Dannenfelser
President, Susan B. Anthony List

Brent Wm. Gardner
Vice President of Government Affairs
Americans for Prosperity

Charmaine Yoest
President & CEO, Americans United for Life

Matt Kibbe
President, FreedomWorks

Ed Martin
President, Eagle Forum

Amy Noone Frederick
President,60 Plus Association

L. Brent Bozell III
Chairman,ForAmerica

Phil Kerpen
President, American Commitment

Virginia Galloway
Southern Regional Director Faith and Freedom Coalition

Grover Norquist
President,Americans for Tax Reform

11 comments

  1. Boredatwork says:

    Voters should have a right to know who is really behind an “issue advocacy” message, so they can better decide how much weight to give it. If money for an anti-climate change attack ad is being pushed by the coal industry, voters should have a right to know. That does not impinge anyone’s freedom of speech, just their ability to hide behind misleading names to conceal the true identity of the special interests pushing the message.

    • Doug Deal says:

      Yeah, the authors of the Federalist papers would all agree, no anonymous speech!!!

      If a statement is refutable, then refute it on the substance, stop looking to assassinate the character of the messenger.

      • Boredatwork says:

        Weighing the credibility and motivation behind the speaker is a key part of refuting speech. It’s also critical when weighing competing claims. For example, if you’re weighing claims by two people about the effects of smoking, it would be helpful to know that one is a Harvard educated doctor and the other is a spokesman hired by a tobacco company. The Supreme Court has also held, multiple times, that the First Amendment does not protect the right to speak anonymously.

        Just because the founding fathers did something does not mean it is protected by the Constitution.

        • Doug Deal says:

          McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission would disagree with you. it was in fact what i was referencing when I mentioned the Federalist papers, as one of the Justices asked a similar question during oral arguments.

          • Boredatwork says:

            Citizens United (and other cases) allows for disclosure laws, and Doe v. Reed limited McIntyre. McIntyre also involved an extremely broad disclosure requirement that applied to any individual, not just paid issue advocates.

    • rightofcenter says:

      I have to agree with you Chris. That looks like a Who’s Who of the Wing Nut Brigade. A creepy list (with one or two exceptions).

  2. debbie0040 says:

    You guys on the left do realize this would also impact labor unions, environmental groups, and other groups on the left in addition to media and churches and corporations. Not just 501c4s
    It adds internet blog posts like Peach Pundit and emails to be included as electioneering communication and also Twitter and FaceBook.

    Imagine media not being allowed to report on elections without registering as a campaign committee and following the reporting requirements.

    But hey, you just keep your head in the sand

Comments are closed.