Special Privileges

You can count on Kmareka for free speech. Until we quit our day jobs for the easy money and glamour of blogging our speech is 100% filthy lucre-free.

Campaigning, on the other hand, costs millions. TV, billboards, radio, annoying junkmail, face to face with politicians, chicken in a function room with the party faithful– that kind of speech takes bucks.

We’re bombarded with paid messages, and more and more often the messenger is a shadowy collection of advocacy groups with bland names like the Citizens for America or Club for Growth. It’s impossible to evaluate the message without knowing the real source and who it serves. An earnest TV voice tells you to ‘ask your congressman’. But who’s paying for the airtime?

Back in the Bush years some good Christians in Evangelical churches were recruited by lobbyist/evangelical leader Ralph Reed to oppose the expansion of Indian casinos. They forgot to listen to what Ralph Reed wasn’t saying. They just assumed he was lobbying against the immorality of gambling. They trusted one of their own.

Actually Reed was paid by lobbyist Jack Abramoff who was representing some Indian casinos that wanted to squelch competition. To unravel that mess of dishonesty you had to follow the money. The Christians got double-crossed, the Indians got triple-crossed, and Abramoff went to jail. Ralph Reed is still working the tent revival circuit, trying to resurrect his reputation.

The outsize influence of big money led to calls for reform and transparency. Disclosure laws are intended to give voters a clear ID on who is paying for political speech. Without knowing the source it’s impossible to judge the worth of the message.

Seems like a good and necessary thing, but at least one lobbying group thinks it’s just too much trouble, and they want a special exemption from the rules that everyone else has to follow. Attorney James Bopp figures prominently in pleas to remove what’s left of restraint on the use of money in politics.

Katherine Gregg of the Providence Journal reports…

PROVIDENCE — A group seeking to head off the legalization of same-sex marriage in Rhode Island has gone to court seeking the right to spend thousands of dollars on TV and radio ads for and against candidates for governor and the General Assembly, free from the state’s contribution limits and “extensive reporting requirements.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court earlier this month by the National Organization for Marriage, a nonprofit group with a multimillion-dollar war chest.

Multi-million! That’s a nice hunk of money. They seem kind of shy about saying where it comes from. And they not only have money, but a superstar lawyer, James Bopp…

Bopp was the lawyer and veteran member of the Republican National Committee who first advised the conservative group Citizens United to use its “Hillary: The Movie” as a test of the limits on corporate political spending that ultimately resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last winter that corporations, unions and nonprofit groups have the right to spend as much as they want supporting or opposing the election of a candidate.
Explaining the lawsuit on the James Madison Center’s website on Monday, he said: “Rhode Island law limits the Freedom of Speech by creating line after line of rules that tie groups to the ground in the middle of a forest of laws.

Darn those disclosure laws! What business do we little voters have knowing who’s behind all this ‘defense of marriage’?

The response from Michael J. Healey, spokesman for the attorney general’s office: “Mr. Bopp has been called a ‘litigation machine’ and, now, we can certainly see why, but we’re not as certain as he apparently is about how Rhode Island law is harming his organization. We’ll go to court, defend the Board of Elections and the taxpayers, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Free speech? This is paid advertising and lobbyist heaven. What’s more, this unwanted defense of marriage is going to cost Rhode Island taxpayers–and it won’t be the first time. James Bopp, Jr. could be strolling around with 15,000 of Rhode Islander’s tax dollars in his pocket…

Bopp, a socially conservative Republican with a practice focused on issues such as gay marriage and abortion, was one of at least two nationally known lawyers to contact the governor’s office about writing the brief, according to, Michael Maynard, a governor’s spokesman.
After Bopp was chosen for the no-bid contract, he spent about two weeks writing the 27-page legal document. He will be paid with as much as $15,000 in taxpayer dollars, though he has yet to submit a bill, Maynard said.
The details of the arrangement were released yesterday shortly after Lynch filed an open records request with the governor’s office regarding Bopp’s work. Lynch asserted that the brief was filed to promote Carcieri’s personal views and should have been paid for with personal money.
“We all know what the governor’s position is on these issues,” Lynch said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate [for him] to use state tax money to advance his own personal opinion on this issue.”

Read the rest here. It’s outrageous. This is the same governor who tried to cancel health insurance for 28 moderate-income pregnant women who depended on RiteCare. They weren’t the kind of families the governor values.

As for the National Organization for Marriage– they haven’t done squat for my marriage. I kind of wish they would give 15 low-income families $1,000 each and see if it brought a little marital bliss. I’ll bet it would.

Instead, NOM will give Rhode Islanders more bills and a bunch of obnoxious commercials demanding we get all upset that a couple of women might want to be as legally married in Pawtucket as in Seekonk.

And they want to do it using money from the donors who dare not speak their name.

One thought on “Special Privileges

  1. Carcieri and the NOM seem especially mean-spirited about this, they want to hurt others by keeping them from marrying to no benefit to themselves. At least the advertisers screaming their commercials have some possible benefit of more sales, but nobody benefits from keeping people who may love each other from marrying.

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