Now the speech police are deputizing themselves


Apparently Arizona’s so-called "clean elections" program has led at least one Arizona State University  student to deputize herself in order to combat "illegal" political speech, which she defines as "privately funded and… not paid for by [a] political party"

From the Web site of the Sonoran Alliance:

"Detective Miller recounted the episode in an official memorandum to Lieutenant Danny Wilkinson.  The memorandum reads, in part: "… at about 1045 hours… I watched a young white female remove a campaign sign from the Southeast corner of Baseline and Rural.  The female then carried the campaign signs over to the Northwest corner and into the Jack In The Box parking lot.  She placed the signs, along with several others into the trunk of a newer model Honda…

At this point I contacted the subject and identified myself.  When asked what she was doing, she told me she was collecting unauthorized campaign signs.  When asked why they were not authorized, she explained they were privately funded and were not paid for by the person’s political party.  When asked her name, she identified herself as Lori Lieberman.  Lori told me the University Young Democrats had instructed them to collect the unauthorized signs…"

Ms. Lieberman’s story has since changed a bit, she no longer claims the Young Democrats put her up to this, she instead was apparently inspired by chat room discussions. She has also shifted a bit in her thinking on why the signs were illegal, and therefore OK to remove. From the Arizona Republic:

[A] Maricopa County Attorney’s Office investigator stopped Lieberman in October from taking campaign signs, which read "Open Our Borders Re-elect Ableser" and "Open Our Borders Re-elect Cahill."

The signs belonged to Chandler resident Jim Torgeson and referred to District 17 Democrat candidates Ed Ableser and Meg Burton-Cahill….

The county investigator wrote a memo to Tempe police, stating that after he watched Lieberman take the signs he asked her to replace them and questioned her. Lieberman told the investigator she took the signs at the urging of the ASU Young Democrat group, according to the county memo.

Torgeson had said he had researched the two Democrats’ position on immigration and considered the signs a way "to help the candidates get their message out." He said he was outraged that Lieberman would stifle his free-speech rights… The ASU Young Democrats and Ableser denied knowledge of and involvement with Lieberman’s actions.


When Tempe police interviewed Lieberman she denied telling the county investigator the ASU political group told her to take the signs, saying the investigator must have misunderstood her and that she had heard about the "unauthorized signs" in an Internet chat room for young Democrats.

She told police she had acted alone and did not know it was against the law to remove the signs. Tempe Police said Tempe City Code allows any sign used to advertise a political candidate, proposition or urge persons to vote to stand temporarily at approved sites. State law and the First Amendment also protect political speech.

Lieberman said she thought the signs were "illegal" because the sponsor intended to influence voters’ opinions with misrepresentations of the Democrats’ stance on immigration.

Ms. Lieberman has apparently been convinced by the "clean elections" mantra that private money in politics is illegal, and that speech that one disagrees with and believes to be false is illegal as well. Not an encouraging sign for someone hoping to become a teacher (Ms. Lieberman is an Education major). I don’t know what ASU’s self-deputized speech police officer plans to teach, but I think we can assume it is not civics.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.