When the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was exposed for targeting conservative and tea party organizations that had applied for non-profit status, very few of us in the conservative movement were surprised. The left and their allies have used the federal bureaucracy to silence opponents of their policies for decades. What’s new, however, is the use of these tactics by Republicans to do the same thing.
The organization I work for, Americans for Tax Reform, opposes tax increases. We sponsor the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which is a written commitment by a politician to their constituents to vote against tax increases. 41 U.S. Senators, 219 Congressmen, and over 1,000 state legislators have made that promise to their constituents because they believe reforming government is a better solution than demanding taxpayers fork over more of their hard-earned income.
Some Republicans in Georgia, including Gov. Nathan Deal, Speaker David Ralston, and House Transportation Committee Chair Jay Roberts are dead set against reforming government and prioritizing spending and would rather raise taxes to pay for new special spending projects like light rail in Atlanta. As we regularly do, and in the course of exercising our First Amendment rights, we explained in a blog post on our website that raising the gas tax was in fact a tax hike in violation of the Pledge, which many legislators in Georgia have signed.
Soon after, we received an email, fax, and overnighted letter by one of the founders of GeorgiaLink Public Affairs Group, accusing us of violating the law. We did not release this letter. The following day, however, the Speaker of the House accused us of illegally lobbying in Georgia. It is reasonable to assume the lobbyist and Speaker had discussed this tactic.
This strategy came after both parties realized that their quest to raise the gas tax in Georgia was falling on deaf ears.
This is how the left operates. When their message and policy proposals fail, they employ scare tactics to bully opponents of their big government agenda.
The Fairness Doctrine is one such example. First introduced in 1949, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required by law that broadcasters to give equal time to opposing viewpoints. Instead of letting the free market and consumers regulate the broadcast market with viewership, listenership, and ratings, for more than thirty years, the First Amendment was used as an excuse for actually silencing opposing viewpoints. The “Hush Rush” crowd has sought and failed to breathe life into this doctrine multiple times due to the popularity of conservative and death of liberal talk radio.
The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) has been used as another means for silencing speech. McCain-Feingold, which regulates public election campaign spending and speech, prohibited “issue ads” that ran close to primaries and general elections. Wisconsin Right to Life won a Supreme Court case to overturn the abridgement of First Amendment protections with Chief Justice Roberts noting, “We give the benefit of the doubt to speech, not censorship.” Supporters of this limitation on free speech opposed informing voters of where candidates stood on issues before they voted.
We at Americans for Tax Reform assert our First Amendment rights to publish opinions and express viewpoints, without registering with the government or being subject to government regulation as a result of that expression.
The facts stand: Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, House Speaker David Ralston, Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts, and a wide range of special spending interests in Atlanta are salivating at the idea of billions of dollars in higher taxes. Their plan raises the state gas tax, grants localities an unchecked ability to do the same, and would make gasoline sold in Georgia taxed at well above the U.S. average.
Taxpayers will not be silenced or threatened into submission. Tax hikes are what politicians do instead of reforming government. It is sad and unfortunate that some Republicans in Georgia are employing the tactics of left to use the government to stifle speech. They will not succeed.