Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wrong Country Senator Williams

This is a letter to State Senator Donald Williams' aide

Mr. Scully

Everyone is indeed “entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts” as one of my favorite U.S. Senators of all time once said. And I say with confidence that same now deceased senator would, if he was still alive, speak out against your boss’ pending legislation limiting First Amendment rights.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan never advocated government sponsored censorship in his entire life. You took his quote very much out of context. The remedy for wrong opinions isn’t government speech restrictions but a long, healthy, impolite heated public debate. The way it works in this country is I have my say and then you have yours. Rebuttal and response while others listen in whatever medium we choose to engage each other in be it on the internet, TV or in the newspapers. That’s the way our American system has always worked and it is the only way for a democracy. We have nothing to learn from the Soviet Union -- which now sits on the ash heap of history.

Never in his worst nightmare did Daniel Patrick Moynihan envision setting up government censorship committees like your boss proposed last November after the election.

I noted this morning that you have taken down this webpage.

If I were you I implore your boss to drop this legislation and never speak about it again but there still are those pesky Freedom of Information laws and I am fighting mad. There is nothing on this green Earth I take more seriously than freedom of speech.

I am demanding through a FOI release

1. This document/ press release which I quote in part here sent to my email and/or mailing address.

2. I demand the full written bill.

3. I demand all other materials such press kits, opinions from the Office of Legislative Research dealing with this or similar legislation regardless of whether Williams seriously expects to pass the bill or if it is already killed in committee.

My other more frequently checked email is

You may use either.

My mailing address is above in the usual spot. My request is also being sent via the U.S. Postal service to make sure this FOI request is not lost or misplaced.

I am working under the assumption that you wrote the press release. Let’s take a quick preliminary walkthrough here.

I have some sharp disagreements with Senator Williams’ proposal and assertions you both take in this now hidden from public view press release. I am voicing my objections now for fear that in the future after this legislation is law I will be prohibited from doing so publicly.

Williams claimed that this past election cycle was:

“Universally denounced as one of the most negative in state history”.

Well I am part of the universe and I simply don’t agree. I didn’t think it was any different from previous years. The governor’s race was so polite it was an absolute bore. And even if the election was the worst fought over in history, is that necessarily a bad thing? I would expect you to be pleased with the results. Your side achieved a veto-proof majority in the Legislature, picked up two congressional seats and nationally you took over Congress. I wish it had gone the other way but that’s the process.

I think Williams complaining about “negativity” is just a convenient thing to say for someone who wants to curtail the speech rights of his opponents. Williams wants a civil society at the expense of the free exchange of ideas.

Williams says he wants to expunge from public square all “negative” advertising by candidates but who is to decide what is allowable criticism is and what is “negative”?

OK. I can answer that question myself. This new Truth Committee. Who are these people and why do we need them to tell us what to think and who to vote for?

Why must speech be regulated at all?

“Adopting a Truth in Campaign Advertising code of conduct and providing candidates the opportunity to sign a voluntary pledge to abide by the code”.

I am curious just how voluntary this pledge is going to be. I am willing wager you a cup of coffee it is not very voluntary at all. When someone points a gun at my head and says “Your money or you life”, is that the same kind of “voluntary” you are talking about?

“Holding negative campaigns accountable by withholding portions of funds from candidates participating in public financing and whose paid messages are found to be intentionally untrue or misleading”.

I can’t help but think that this is the other shoe dropping. First you pass public financing (which I strongly oppose but that is another issue) and now liberal incumbents want more taxpayer money for their campaigns than their challengers. You want challengers de-funded before the constitutionally questionable law even takes effect.

I think your use of word “misleading” is misleading. Who is to say if something is misleading? Can’t voters be trusted to make up their own minds what’s misleading and what’s a good point?

Why is this elite committee you propose doing voters’ thinking for them? This committee’s formation seems to me to be one step towards abolishing our democratic form of government. Why not go one step further and have this elite committee elect from its own body our full Legislature, Governor, U.S. Senators and Congressmen if they are so all-knowing? Just think how quiet and peaceful that would be!

Your above statement can only be true if there exists only one right side to every issue and every other point of view is wrong. We know – or some of us do anyway -- that all issues have at least two sides. If I espouse one side than it is only natural for you to counter it with your point of view. Some of the points I make you might say are misleading but you know what?

To bad! Further, it seems to me that there are two reasons why Don Williams would accuse me of being misleading:

1. The first is I am in fact cleverly misleading voters. I am sneakingly leading people to believe false information with the careful way I say what I say. I am leading voters to assume things that aren’t true while not actually technically speaking a lies. You know like Bill Clinton does all the time when he is parsing the word “Is”.

2. The second reason why Don Williams might accuse me being “misleading” voters is because he is losing his argument and he needs to say something to deflect the debate into a “he said, she said” stalemate so he doesn’t lose the election.

The thing about misleading voters is sooner or later you get caught. And the way misleading candidates get caught is with healthy un-restricted public debate. Once a candidate has discredited him or herself it’s hard for them to move votes in their direction.

I can not see any other purpose for Don Williams’ new Truth Committee other than to smother the speech rights of those who would oppose him in an election.

“Constituting a Citizens Review Panel to review complaints of misleading campaign ads brought by candidates against their opponents”.

Exactly who would be on this committee? Would it not be just another political weapon for incumbents trying to retain their jobs? I don’t suppose there is any way anyone other than incumbents will be voting on the membership of this committee. So therefore any such committee would be biased towards supporting the incumbents, their policies and in particular the incumbent majority.

Isn’t it the voters and taxpayers who currently decide these things in the voting booth? Why is that bad?

This committee is one step away from a government-run media like they had in the old Soviet Union. Bad idea! Do I need to explain why?

Establishing standards for campaign ads that will require any assertion of a fact, vote, quote or position concerning an opponent to be documented with a valid citation and prohibit the altering or manipulating of any image of an opponent.

Again more regulating of speech rights. Who is Don Williams’ Truth Committee to say what is a fact and what is not a fact? Can’t voters do that themselves with the help of the media?

My friend Virginia Raymond criticized your boss in 1996 and 98 for voting for a gas tax increase that made it the highest such tax in the nation at the time. That was a fact. Williams said Raymond was misleading the public -- which actually was a lie --- but she had all those citations available to anyone who ever asked for them.

Under your law any challanger would be legally required to footnote herself every time she brought up her opponent’s voting record? I find that to be an unreasonable and unconstitutional restriction on free speech which nobody but a lawyer could think up.

Constitutionally protected free speech can not be smothered with legal requirements on every verifiable point in an election. Do we really need government committees telling people what the facts are and aren’t? Can’t voters make up their own minds?

Voters have access to the media and minutes and voting records. Doesn’t the media and the public have the smarts to investigate and find things out without government committees getting in the way? After all Ms. Raymond despite being correct in her charge was not elected to replace Williams. The people listened to her arguments and were not persuaded. They apparently liked the gas tax just fine. No government committee was needed and Don Williams won.

Tell me what’s broken here.

Incumbents in Connecticut have a re-election rate in the high 90’s. Because of their superior party registration, gerrymandered districts, franking privileges and other perks of power, Democrat incumbents almost never lose.

Why do Democrat incumbents need the further protection this legislation would give them? Do you people want all the seats in the legislature?

“Reducing the intrusion of "robo" calls by addressing their overuse and misuse in the new code of conduct”.

What is meant by “reducing”? That word is a red flag for me. Will Democrats or incumbents be the only ones allowed this form of speech? Will only certain groups – Unions but not taxpayer rights groups perhaps – be allowed to engage in this form of speech?

It seems to me you incumbents can either ban all such calls or allow them. Incumbents can not pass legislation that allows certain somebodies to robo calls while forbidding others groups from doing so. That violates not one but two Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Amendment 14, Section one states:
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Granted I am not a lawyer but I interpret that to mean that the laws must apply equally to all. You can not silence some groups and allow others to voice their opinions.
But this proposal does not make it all the way to Amendment 14 of the United States Constitution because your legislation of course is brazen violation of the First Amendment which reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Whether or not William's bill is constitutional isn't even debatable. It’s unconstitutional as hell!

Willaims’ attack on my right to criticize him in public and try to convince my fellow Americans not to vote for him also violates the State Constitution at least FOUR TIMES!

SEC. 1. All men when they form a social compact, are equal in rights; and no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive public emoluments or privileges from the community.
SEC. 4. Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.
SEC. 5. No law shall ever be passed to curtail or restrain the liberty of speech or of the press.
SEC. 14. The citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble for their common good, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government, for redress of grievances, or other proper purposes, by petition, address or remonstrance.

I look forward to your response.


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