Because campaign-finance regulations are, by definition, an abridgment of free speech, we should not be surprised that the sophomoric hijinks of an anti-Deval Patrick activist who goes by the name “Stop Killer Coke” may well be deemed illegal.
To backtrack, for those who have not been following this closely: On Aug. 7, the Globe’s Frank Phillips wrote:
The New York-based Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, a group of labor activists that seeks to expose Coke’s alleged misdeeds around the world, is launching a campaign to portray Patrick as a greedy corporate executive who has become a multimillionaire defending the two companies. [Texaco was identified as the second company.]
Then, in a nifty piece of investigative reporting, the Web site Blue Mass Group, which follows Democratic politics in Massachusetts, discovered that Stop Killer Coke isn’t really an organization. Rather, it’s some guy named Ray Rogers who’s based in New York and who owns a private consulting business. (The direct link to BMG’s exposé is here. Also, thanks to the miracle of tags, you can read all of BMG’s Killer Coke coverage here.)
Next up: a classic column by the Globe’s Joan Vennochi last Saturday, in which she lovingly reproduced some internal e-mails by David Guarino, communications director for Tom Reilly’s gubernatorial campaign. Guarino discussed plans to hook Rogers up with local media types in the hopes of scoring some points against Patrick. Good stuff.
Unfortunately, we live in a time when the exposure of slightly sleazy political shenanigans is no longer its own punishment. Rather, it must be subjected to hearings, fines and stern letters of reprimand. So, naturally, the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) is looking into this to see whether Reilly’s campaign or that of the third Democratic candidate, Chris Gabrieli, might have violated any regulations regarding financial reporting and/or improper coordination. The Herald’s Kimberly Atkins reported on this development yesterday, and the Globe’s Phillips has a more detailed story today.
The complaint to the OCPF was filed by five pro-Patrick union leaders last week, with Blue Mass Group cheering them on. (I would link to Adam Reilly’s report, but the Phoenix’s Web site is down at the moment.) This is a perfect example of people who suppress freedom of speech in the name of doing the right thing.
And you know what? The case against Rogers and/or the Reilly and Gabrieli campaigns is probably pretty strong. The larger question is: Why do these regulations exist? What public purpose is achieved by curtailing political speech in any way? And what exactly is Rogers supposed to be doing wrong?
Ray Rogers is the modern equivalent of the lonely pamphleteer, the very essence of who the First Amendment is supposed to protect. It shouldn’t matter whether he’s right or wrong, where he gets his money from or which campaign or campaigns he’s talking to. Let him get his message out, and let Deval Patrick get his message out.
In fact, that’s already happened. What’s the problem?