Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Free speech"? Only if you're paying for it (UPDATED 9:49pm)

John Doe Deux has kept having interesting developments over the weekend, complete with the Wall Street Journal editorial page dishing out another warning to Governor Walker, demanding that he not settle his criminal investigation into potential illegal campaigning and financing. The corporate propaganda of the WSJ is behind a paywall right now, but the Journal-Sentinel has a good summary of it. Here's a key passage of the Murdoch Journal's editorial.
The stakes in the federal lawsuit against the John Doe probe are bigger than Mr. Walker's campaign. They concern the prosecutorial machine that exists in Wisconsin, and in too many other states, to punish and limit political speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Mr. Walker can help that cause by not undercutting the federal lawsuit with a deal in state court that might let prosecutors save face.
The premise from the Wall Street Journal and in Walker's Friday mumbling about "First Amendment rights" is laughable, as no one is denying Club for Growth could go ahead and run ads all over the place tomorrow. But what is being investigated is whether these "independent advocacy" organizations can COORDINATE with candidates like Scott Walker (they cannot under current law), while at the same time allowing these oligarch organizations to hide their donors and launder money in the process of performing their "rights of free speech" in coordinating with those candidates.

Capper's article in Cognitive Dissidence does a great job summing up the state of play in John Doe Deux, especially with these two paragraphs near the end.
One is that we really know who is in charge, and it's not Walker. He is just an enforcer for the Dark Money Syndicate and he will remain in his seat of power only as long as he is useful to them.

Another thing is that this whole situation is much more like a mafia syndicate's racketeering scheme rather than the caucus scandals that we saw over a decade ago. The prosecutors need to treat it such. If they are unable to execute their duties because of all the legal wrangling, it is time for the feds to step in and deal with it, just as they did with John Gotti, the Teflon Don.
Which probably explains why Wisconsin Club for Growth and other oligarchs are squealing as delaying as much as they are. They know this leads to something big.

Now compare how Walker's puppetmasters argue about "free speech", and compare it with the hearing coming up this Tuesday afternoon before the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules. It deals with rights of assembly at the State Capitol by everyday citizens, and the Wisconsin Department of Administration is trying to codify these rules to an October agreement on proper types of demonstrations and displays, which followed numerous arrests and citations issued to the anti-Walker Solidarity Singers and related protestors this Summer. Here are a few examples of what these rules would re-establish.
Section 4 codifies historical practices with respect to the grant and denial of permits, and extends those same protections to the new category of events held under advance notices, as providing such protections naturally arises out of the recent settlement agreement. Further, section 4 creates as categories of use ‘spontaneous events’ and ‘advance notices’ for the reasons set forth above. Moreover, section 4 allows for use of the capitol building’s rotunda by 12 or fewer persons without notice and without constituting a “spontaneous event” within the meaning of this chapter. Finally, section 4 codifies the department’s policy on severance clauses and appeal procedure.

Section 5 codifies the historical practice of the Wisconsin state capitol police of resolving conflicts of use on a first-come first-served basis. This section provides that the department may publish content-neutral guidance limiting or explaining any potential imposition of charges arising out of the use of State facilities. The section codifies the historical practice of the Wisconsin state capitol police of not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in the use management of State facilities.

Section 6 provides that permitting requirements for exhibits shall not be applied to persons who simply wear clothing bearing an expressive message, or who simply hold signs bearing an expressive message, provided that the sign is of a certain size.
But it's interesting to note this hearing is on the heels of a court decision calling the prior DOA rules illegal. According to this article in the Blue Cheddar blog, Dane County Judge John C. Albert has thrown out numerous tickets Walker's DOA gave to the Solidarity Singers.
Judge Albert said that after Conley’s July 9 ruling, the state “cobbled together” what was left of their rule, slapped it on Judge Conley’s ruling, and then continued to pursue prosecutions.

Judge Albert told the 10 defendants in front of him that, “the continued prosecution of you and 100′s of others was done without amending the rule to arguably make it pass constitutional muster”.

Judge Conley’s July 2013 ruling involved the Kissick-ACLU lawsuit which was settled on October 8, 2013 when the State of Wisconsin paid roughly $87,000 to ACLU. In February, Judge John Markson dismissed 29 tickets issued to Solidarity Sing Along participants.
It's really remarkable to see these two events coincide, because it shows the double-standard that right-wingers are demanding when it comes to free speech. "Speech" that involves paying money in support or opposition of certain candidates and policies is supposed to be protected and allowed without limits, with the source of that money hidden and laundered through several different organizations. This is despite the fact that radio and TV stations are supposed to broadcast in the public interest and have limited amounts of commercials, which means one group buying up loads of spots would prevent others from having that same access, either through driving up the costs of ads, or through a lack of ads available.

On the flip side, speech that is done by individuals in areas open to the public, without any money being shelled out? Well THAT needs to be regulated and restricted. That is ridiculous on its face, but it tells you how these oligarchs really want to operate in this country. They want to control all of the rules and the rule-makers, without having to take on any of the responsibilities and consequences of exercising their "rights" and control of our government. Amoral puppets like Scott Walker are more than willing to slant the field in favor of these scumbags, while trying to keep everyday citizens from exercising their "speech" the only way they can- through public displays, since they don't have the time and money to buy the access that oligarchs do.

UPDATE: Here's an excellent article from Man MKE at Uppity Wisconsin, describing the arrogance and "above the law" mentality that Eric O'Keefe and Wisconsin Club for Growth are showing through their arguments and court actions. We go to a very dangerous place if these people are allowed to succeed.

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