Jim Doyle’s favorite hack, Bill Christofferson (Xoff in the Cheddarsphere), seems to think that an issue “ad” on school choice produced by Charlie Sykes and run solely on his own WTMJ show, is illegal. He conveniently doesn’t assert the state statute that this purportedly violates, so I can’t speak to whether he is off-base vis-a-vis state statute. However, I did come up with the state Constitution section (Article I, Section 3, annotated) that deals with speech – “Every person may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right, and no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”
One of the annotations (which are contradictory on the issue of “electioneering”) does state, “It may be appropriate to consider context in determining whether a communication "expressly advocates" the election, defeat, recall, or retention of a clearly identified candidate or a particular vote at a referendum, within the meaning of s. 11.01 (16) (a) 1. Elections Board v. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, 227 Wis. 2d 650, 597 N.W.2d 721 (1999), 98âˆ’0596.” However; not only is there a “MAY” in that exemption from this provision crafted out by Wisconsin’s Supreme Court; and not only is there no express advocacy regarding the election, defeat, recall, or retention of Doyle contained in the item; but there is no noted exemption from this provision for legislative items. Therefore, even if Xoff is right about this being an “unpaid commercial”, it would seem to fall under the Constitutional protection of free speech.
However, he is wrong on this being an “ad”. It is true that it sounds a lot like an ad, and it is true that Sykes at one point said that he was seeking sponsorship for wider airplay of the item (at which point, it would become an ad), but its current on-air play, as far as I can determine (I don’t listen 3.5 hours/day) is limited to Charlie’s own show outside the normal commercial rotation. Also, every time this item has aired and I managed to hear its airing, Sykes introduced the item as his.
As for restricting advocacy, I’m sure the Legislature and the governor would love to not hear from their constituents. That way, bad ideas like AB15 (the bad-gas bill) would sail through, while good ideas like the repeal of the automatic gas-tax increase would have died on the vine. Sorry, Xoff; sorry, Doyle; and sorry, Legislature, but this is a participatory Republic.
Revisions/extensions (2:37 pm 1/19/2006) – Charlie, Patrick, Peter, taxh8r and Dad29 all have reactions to Xoff’s attempted hit. Who is going to ask Xoff, “Was this trip really necessary?”
Revisions/extensions part deux (4:00 pm 1/19/2006) – Xoff isn’t safe even on his own blog. A couple of non-bloggers take him to task back on his original post.
Even more revisions/extensions (4:15 pm 1/19/2006) – Brian weighs in. He points out that frivolous campaign charges is straight from the Xoff playbook and invites Xoff to “go for it.”
“Please, continue. Oh, you were finished. Well, allow the Revisions and Extensions to retort” (5:12 pm 1/19/2006) – Add Casper to the list of bloggers turning this day into one of Xoff’s worse days, and add Ask Me Later to the NRE blogroll. Also, Xoff tries to resurrect the “Fairness” Doctrine. Only one small problem; it’s been gone for 20 years.