A troubling and dangerous narrative has developed with regard to organizations like the Arizona Free Enterprise Club that engage in the full contact sport of politics and political advocacy. That narrative is that we should either shut up or be singled out.
First, a little background. Our organization opposes crony capitalism and the many forms in which that occurs, which means we oppose all kinds of subsidies and other incentives that benefit a few select companies or industries at taxpayer expense.
One issue lately that highlights this trend is our opposition to solar subsidies and other incentives that benefit a few select businesses. In fact, our fight against picking winners and losers on renewable subsidies goes back a decade when we opposed (and still oppose) arbitrary renewable energy mandates and other handouts.
After a slate of free market candidates who oppose subsidies won their races last year, the solar lobby has been reeling. But instead of finding better candidates or amending their agenda, the solar lobby has targeted the club’s political activity and speech rights. The Clean Elections Commission has now jumped into the fray, proposing a draconian campaign finance rule that would effectively prohibit political activity by non-profit organizations that don’t disclose all of their contributions and expenditures.
So the commission wants to require all donations to advocacy groups like the Free Enterprise Club be disclosed. Harmless, right? Wrong. Anonymous speech is an important part of political discourse dating back to before the founding of the country. The most important document in American history, the U.S. Constitution, was defended anonymously.
Consider the alternative agenda being pushed by the commission and other first amendment opponents. You want to protest City Hall or blow the whistle on a corrupt politician? Register first. Want to be an anonymous source for a news reporter? Please be sure we have the correct spelling of your name so it can be provided to the government.
This isn’t about disclosure or transparency. The goal is to silence political speech through harassment and intimidation. Look no further than the recent John Doe investigation in Wisconsin or the push by Alabama officials to force disclosure of donors to the NAACP in the 1950’s.
This is not a right vs. left or conservative vs. liberal argument. Consider this statement from Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, “Public discourse and debate is a cornerstone of our democracy and our Constitution ensures the right of individuals to engage in these conversations without being exposed to unnecessary risks of harassment or embarrassment. The only way to bring positive change to our elections is to promote reforms that respect free speech and do not limit it.”
As a group, we will continue to defend the solar industry’s ability to speak and spend freely on the issues and candidates of their choosing, just as much as we will defend ours. And we will not be deterred from pursuing our core mission of promoting economic freedom and a vibrant economy in Arizona. If you want to reach me, please do so at Scot@azfree.org.
— Scot Mussi is President of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club.