Tag Archives: annexation

20/20 Segment

It has come to my attention that I know three types of people. Those who:

1. Fall asleep extremely early on Friday night and thus miss the 20/20 TV show they’ve been anticipating for weeks.

2. Have no idea how to use their Tivo and/or VCR.

3. Really don’t want to watch me on TV and therefore lapse into passive-aggressive mode … “Oh, I wanted to watch, but I got a phone call.” … “Oh, I wanted to watch, but the dog needed to be groomed right then.” … “Oh, I wanted to watch, but I went into labor.” Pfftt.

Well, the joke’s on all three of you because here it is ”” our segment of the 20/20 show broadcast October 17, 2008. HA!

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UgJPWxT0bw]

Read the history of all this then tell me what you think!

We Win … Kinda

If you haven’t yet, read the background about our free speech lawsuit.

Fast forward through two years of litigation, two years of filling out mountains of paperwork to comply with the campaign finance laws, two years of hearings and meetings, and two years of stress to September 2008 when the judge finally ruled on our lawsuit.

The federal judge said we should not have been sued for our speech opposing the annexation, BUT the ruling did nothing to stop future abuses of campaign finance laws in Colorado or elsewhere. The decision also lets stand the burdensome red tape required under Colorado law for grassroots groups that simply want to speak out about issues on the ballot.

The judge recognized that the two vindictive neighbors who sued us used Colorado’s campaign finance laws to intimidate us: “There can be no doubt that they used the private enforcement provisions to attempt to silence the plaintiffs by the filing of the complaint.”

Those “private enforcement provisions” turn campaign finance laws into a weapon that political operatives can use against their opponents by suing them into silence. The judge made clear the complaint violated our First Amendment rights, but he didn’t go far enough in his ruling. He failed to strike down the private enforcement provisions. That leaves any citizen group that bands together to speak about an issue vulnerable to being sued for their speech by political opponents. Not by the Secretary of State, mind you, but by ANYONE.

In Colorado and other states, any time two or more people join together to speak out about an issue on the ballot and spend more than $200, they must register with the state as an “issue committee.” Then they must file reports that rival IRS forms in complexity, listing all contributions and spending, even on things like yard signs and fliers.

A recent study by campaign finance expert Dr. Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Kansas School of Business asked 255 people to fill out the required registration and reporting forms, and not one participant managed to do so correctly. Each person would have been subject to fines and penalties in real life, just like I was. Like me, participants found the required forms “Worse than the IRS!” and said it would make them less likely to get involved in politics.

The judge said these rules cannot kick in for annexation elections until the issue is put on the ballot. We had been sued and forced to become an issue committee several months before that. The judge held that to turn groups of citizens into “issue committees” before the ballot is set violates our First Amendment rights to free speech and association.

Because of the absurdity of our story, we’ve been interviewed by all the local TV stations as well as national Fox News. We’ve been blogged about all over the place. Here: “When John McCain campaigns in Colorado, I hope that some reporter asks him what he thinks of the Parker Six’s victory and their federal lawsuit.”

And here: “Campaign finance reform is creating an intrusive regulatory regime that’s steadily eroding Americans’ political freedoms.”

And here: “That John McCain sponsored the odious measure known by his name is noted, but the significance of a conservative sponsor is hidden behind his being dismissed as “unconventional”. That President Bush signed it into law is forgiven too easily by assigning his blame to the Supreme Court, which has plenty of blame of its own already.”

And here: “Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chief architect and cheerleader for so-called campaign finance reform, informed the audience that he “would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”

There have also been oodles of print stories, local and national, including George Will’s syndicated column.

Even when they were written, the horrible McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws were being vilified.

And now, the ABC news show 20/20 wants to tell our story. The working title is “John Stossel’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics.”

It’s not all about us, but our case will be included.

Obviously, all dates and times are subject to change, but tentatively, there will be a short preview on Friday, October 10, with the full show airing on Friday, October 17.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what it was like to have the 20/20 crew in my bedroom. And finally, the segment that aired on October 17, 2008.

Have you ever had your free speech rights stifled? What do you think of campaign finance laws? HAVE you ever even thought about campaign finance laws? When you think of campaign finance laws, what springs to mind?

Why I’m Going To Be On 20/20

Way back in the early part of 2006 our little unincorporated neighborhood of about 300 houses in Parker, Colorado was all abuzz over the efforts of two of our neighbors who thought it would be a good idea to annex into the town. After my husband and I studied the facts and talked to our neighbors, we decided we were against annexation for a variety of reasons, the most important to us being the huge sales tax increase we’d be hit with.

So, because we own a printshop and can make signs, we made a couple that said “No Annexation” and “Annexation is a permanent tax increase” and planted them in our front yard.

Our neighbors kept stopping by asking if we’d make some for them, so we did. Pretty soon the neighborhood was filled with these signs and it was pretty clear most everyone held the same opinion that we did.

The annexation was the talk of the neighborhood until June when the Town Council said they’d make their official decision about the annexation at their August meeting. As far as I was concerned, we were just waiting till August to hear what the town was going to do about the petition for annexation. So all was quiet in the ”˜hood.

Until July, that is, when six of us, and our printshop, were slapped with a lawsuit by two of our neighbors, the two who were for the annexation. Among other things, they wanted us to “remove all signs and campaign material from sight” and give them the names of everyone we’ve ever talked to about the annexation.

They said we were not in compliance with campaign finance laws and we needed to register as an issue committee. I had no idea what that meant and I’d never even heard the phrase “issue committee” before.

These people live within a block or two of everyone they sued. I was baffled as to why they couldn’t just ring my doorbell, send me an email, pick up the phone, tape a note to my front door ”” whatever ”” to tell me they think we’re not in compliance with the laws. They could even send us a letter. After all, they’d sent letters to the entire neighborhood about the annexation ”” why not send one about campaign finance rules?

And then it hit me. They wanted to shut us up. The litigation was clearly an attempt to intimidate us.

We had no choice but to file as an issue committee despite the fact we didn’t think we were a committee, nor did we think this qualified as a “ballot issue” since it wasn’t on any ballot.

It fell to me to do the paperwork, and let me tell you, it’s no picnic. Many of my questions couldn’t even be answered on the first try by the Secretary of State’s office. It took a ton of time to register as an issue committee and file the financial forms, but after many, many hours of effort, I got it all set up.

During a local news interview, our opponents claimed they only wanted us to have to follow the rules, so you’d think they’d dismiss the suit as soon as we complied with their request, right?

Wrong.

My opinion was ”” and still is ”” they wanted us to shut up about the annexation so they refused to dismiss the litigation. They wanted to intimidate and harass us, but they also wanted to send a message to everyone else in the neighborhood.

The problem is, these campaign finance laws let them do just that. While unethical, unreasonable, unconscionable and just downright mean . . . it’s absolutely legal in many states ”” not just Colorado ”” for vindictive people to try to shut up anyone who disagrees with them by wrapping them in litigation. And that’s exactly what our two neighbors did to us.

These campaign finance laws need to be changed so no one can try to shut up the people who oppose them. After all, free speech ”” to me ”” is the free exchange of differing ideas and the right to voice them without the fear of harassment and intimidation.

What has happened to our society that people are so threatened by an honest difference of opinion that they can file suit against anyone who speaks with an opposing voice?

I think I should be able to stick a political sign in my front yard without my neighbors slapping a lawsuit on me. And I think you should be able to also.

In September of 2006, through a series of lucky coincidences, we were rescued by the Institute for Justice who filed a lawsuit on our behalf. Not against these horrible neighbors, but against the Colorado Secretary of State.

Our attorney Steve Simpson said, “Today in America, to speak about politics you need more than an opinion ”” you need a lawyer and an accountant. This endless red tape discourages political participation by making it harder than ever to make your voice heard. Political speech and participation is exactly what the First Amendment was designed to protect and that is exactly what Colorado’s law is suppressing. If two people spend more than $200 to distribute fliers or put up yard signs or other such activities that support or oppose a ballot issue, Colorado considers you an ”˜issue committee’ and redefines your speech as campaign finance activities. If you do not register and comply with burdensome reporting requirements, anyone with a political ax to grind can sue you for violations of the campaign finance laws.”

Tomorrow I’ll tell you the outcome of our lawsuit against the Colorado Secretary of State, and the day after THAT I’ll tell you about the 20/20 interview and the air date. And finally, the segment that aired October 17, 2008.

Have you ever had your free speech rights stifled? What do you think of campaign finance laws? HAVE you ever even thought about campaign finance laws? When you think of campaign finance laws, what springs to mind?