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South Carolina General Assembly Attacking Your Political Voice!

Friday, February 8, 2008

The South Carolina General Assembly is in full swing, and this week, the Senate worked on S 714, which could adversely impact NRA's ability to lobby South Carolina legislators on issues relating to our Right to Keep and Bear Arms, hunting, and many other matters. 

Last week, NRA sent a letter of opposition to Senators, urging them to oppose S 714.  At that time, the Senate amended the bill to remove the problematic language.  Unfortunately, the Senate reversed course this week, and reinserted the objectionable provisions.  The sections of S 714 that have caused NRA concern deal with identifying and defining "political awareness organizations," and regulations that seek to control them.  Under the new definition, NRA would be identified as a "political awareness organization," and subject to all reporting requirements.  Those requirements?  NRA would be forced to report to the State of South Carolina all contributions in excess of $100 from individuals.  This reporting requirement would include the name and address of each contributor.  

What is not clear, however, is to what extent this legislation would impact a national organization like NRA.  The vast majority of contributions to NRA originate from outside of South Carolina.  Furthermore, people contribute to NRA for any number of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with influencing legislative policy in South Carolina.  It is unclear how NRA would be required to comply with the reporting requirements of S 714.  This confusion aside, the underlying intent of S 714 is clear.  It is an attempt to regulate, and indirectly restrict, free speech.  This is blatantly unconstitutional.  While federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, have held that some regulations are acceptable when it comes to political speech (e.g., limitations on contributions to political campaigns), true issue advocacy has not been held to be subject to these types of restrictions. 

The right to speak freely and publicly on the wisdom of legislation and government policies is at the very core of democracy and of the right protected by the First Amendment.  S 714 is clearly an attempt to infringe on that right.  Not only does it infringe on the right to free speech, but the reporting requirement is a clear invasion of the privacy of those who wish to contribute to NRA.  Not wanting to be put on a government list, NRA contributors could choose to simply no longer contribute, which would greatly diminish NRA's ability to speak on behalf of its members on policy issues of concern to them. This could have a ripple effect that reaches far beyond the borders of South Carolina. 

S 714 must be defeated.  Please contact your Senator and urge him to oppose S 714.  You can find all the necessary contact information by clicking here.

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