Secret Email Group Helps States Demand Names of Donors to Conservative Groups

This column by ACRU Policy Board member J. Christian Adams was published November 17, 2015 on PJ Media.

Texas state campaign finance regulators are pursuing enforcement actions seeking the names of donors to conservative organizations. With other state regulators in Democrat-run states, these speech regulators are coordinating their responses to free speech litigation and state legislation limiting their regulatory powers.

Other states, including California, are also attempting to obtain the names of donors from conservative groups.

State speech and campaign finance regulators in blue states, and in states with regulatory boards such as Wisconsin with a decidedly left-leaning bias, have been participating in an internet discussion group to enhance state speech regulation.

The list server is run by the state of Vermont. The address: Campaign-Finance-Litigation-Defense@list.state.vt.us. Emails obtained by PJ Media show extensive collaboration among bureaucrats in different states in their efforts to regulate political speech, particularly against conservatives.

Participation on the list has included government employees in at least the following states: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New York City, New York, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Texas officials turned to speech regulators in other states to aid their efforts to obtain the names of donors of a conservative Texas organization.

In the email to the private list serve, John Moore, director of enforcement at the Texas Ethics Commission, turns to other states for help in forcing the disclosure of private donor information to conservative groups. Moore notes Texas “has joined this community of attorneys who have already experienced what we are currently going through here in Texas.” He then goes on to ask for help against the organization who is “refusing to disclose its donors” to the government.

On the government-run list-serve, the state speech and elections regulators also share strategies for defeating pro-free speech litigation. They congratulate each other when regulations infringing political speech are upheld by the lower courts. Conversations on the list also include attacks on Jim Bopp, the attorney behind the Citizens United decision, and cross-state coordination on how to avoid paying Bopp’s legal fees in challenges he brought.

John Moore, TX Enforcement Director

Emails from this state government run list-serve show state speech regulators looking for ways to defeat efforts by conservative groups to defend the First Amendment. Emails also reveal collaboration between state speech regulators and left-wing organizations funded by George Soros.

In one example, Deirdre Marie-Iha, a lawyer for Hawaii, asks for help defending against a free speech case:

Hi all. If your states have won campaign finance cases and [sic] Bopp and Co. (or others) have filed a petition for cert. at the Supremes, did you [sic] office hire supreme court counsel?… I see a cert. petition in my future (For all the right reasons!) 🙂

The collaboration between the speech regulators would produce a recommendation.

Deidre Marie-Iha

Jane Gordon, from the New York City law department, suggested to the list-serve that Hawaii contact the Soros-funded Campaign Legal Center for the names of potential lawyers to defend free speech restrictions:

“I also really like (and respect) Paul Ryan at the Campaign Legal Center. He could give you some leads,” reads Gordon’s reply.

Paul Ryan has suggested that regulators crack down on public statements campaigns and private groups make on Twitter. Other emails from the list-serve reveal the group of state regulators using recommendations published by the far-left Brennan Center for Justice:

The list-serve produces an email notation:

Campaign-Finance-Litigation-Defense is a mailing list for use solely by lawyers representing State, Federal, and Local Government to share information on topics related to the defense of campaign finance and disclosure statutes. The list is designed to focus on litigation related to campaign finance and disclosure statute challenges and not general elections issues.

This collaboration between blue state speech regulators and outside interests is yielding results.