By Ed Krayewski
Absent this protection, the federal government could decide that the Washington Post, as Trump claims, was a sort of lobbying arm of Amazon, and thus muzzle their election-related speech.
It’s not theoretical. Before Citizens United, as A. Baron Hinkle has pointed out, campaign finance laws “regulated not just donations to candidates and political parties, but also ‘electioneering communications’ made within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of an election.”
Such laws are regularly used by those in power to silence their critics. In Ohio, Hinckle notes, a local Republican leader targeted a blogger who criticized him. That politician argued that because the activist spent $40 a month to maintain the blog where he posted his political criticisms, he had to register with the state and be regulated as a political action committee. Hinkle also mentions a Missouri man who was fined for calling himself a “citizens lobbyist” and heading a group, Missouri First, that sought to influence public policy. Missouri First was not a lobbying firm, and it had no clients. Nevertheless, the professional association of lobbyists brought a complaint against him. In Nevada, another group was targeted for handing out two flyers critical of a Democratic politician.