Well, I guess it’s official—we’re entering campaign season (or maybe we’ve been there and I’ve been trying to avoid noticing). In any case, what this means is that campaign finance issues are hot at the state and federal levels. Senate Bill 203 fits right in –it creates new requirements for independent expenditures. Independent expenditures are purchases of advertising or direct mail that take a position on a candidate without the candidate knowing (i.e., independent of the candidate). And, because every advertisement is required to state who paid for it, you can typically tell when the advertisement is coming from the candidate and when it isn’t.
(By the way, this is where I get really happy that the Chamber doesn’t take positions on candidates or get involved in any candidate races.)
What you should know about the bill is that these increased regulations, which are required only for those independent expenditures made by corporations, could chill constitutionally-protected free speech for our members who do participate in these independent expenditures.
The question is, why are we engaging on this issue today? It is the end of the session—so rushing this bill at the last minute doesn’t allow those of you most affected to weigh in with your thoughts. Further, there is no lack of challenges and issues currently facing our state—this seems like a misplaced priority when we all should be focused on the economy and jobs. And, it appears to create an uneven playing field for people who engage in campaigns—one fundamental principle in business is that all we typically ask for is an even playing field and then allow us to compete.