by Paul Jacob
We often take freedom of speech for granted. We shouldn't.
And we expect those in government to serve the people, not themselves. But reality is often far different.
Two years ago a referendum campaign was launched in Washington state to put a gas tax increase passed by legislators to a vote of the people. Two talk show hosts at KVI radio in Seattle, Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson, spoke out regularly in favor of the referendum effort, urging people to work on petitions and to donate to the campaign.
That is, they did so until several local governments filed suit demanding that the cost of KVI's programming be reported as a campaign contribution. A lower court judge agreed and so ordered.
And because Washington state statute forbids any contribution over $5,000 in the final 21 days of a campaign, the radio station was effectively silenced. Fearing more litigation, management instructed KVI hosts not to talk about the gas tax.
Now, finally, more than a year after the campaign ended, the state supreme court has ruled unanimously against these local governments, saying the radio hosts should have been free to speak out.
In a concurring opinion, Judge J. M. Johnson called the local governments' actions "abusive prosecution" and added that "The Municipalities involved expected millions of dollars from increased tax revenue if Initiative 912 failed to qualify for the ballot."
Those in government are supposed to be servants, protecting our rights. Not suing to muzzle speech.
Paul Jacob's "Common Sense" is published by the Sam Adams Alliance. Their website can be visited at www.samadamsalliance.org.