Register here for speech rights

You can stand on a busy street corner, waving a sign in support of your political beliefs. You can deliver speeches to any group, e-mail your opinions to everyone in your computer’s address book, or stand outside any government meeting to hand out pamphlets, urging people to back your cause. You can do this all day, every day, without fear of government interference.

But if you want to buy a TV ad, you have to register with the state?

This is the folly of election law, campaign regulation and the absurd restrictions they place on free speech. And it’s in full swing in Carson City.

Secretary of State Ross Miller is dedicating the finite resources of his office to go after the Alliance for America’s Future, a group paying for positive TV ads for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval.

The ads were an answer to a Democrat-backed commercial blitz that attacks Mr. Sandoval, with the goal of turning the June 8 primary election to his rival, incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons. Polls show Mr. Sandoval winning a general election matchup with Democratic front-runner Rory Reid, but Mr. Reid beating Gov. Gibbons in November.

Mr. Miller, a Democrat, claims the Alliance for America’s Future must register as a political action committee with the state to engage in this type of political speech, and he wants a judge to block the airing of additional ads until the group complies with the law.

Barry Bennett, the Virginia-based consultant behind the Alliance for America’s Future, says the group doesn’t need to register with Mr. Miller’s office because it operates independently from Mr. Sandoval’s campaign, and because its ads do not “express advocacy” by urging registered Republicans to vote for Mr. Sandoval in the primary election.

“The ad does not contain any reference to an election or voting by the electorate, candidacy for office, or political party and does not encourage the public to vote for or against a candidate,” Virginia attorney Tom Josefiak wrote in a letter to Mr. Miller.

But even if the ads did urge people to vote for Mr. Sandoval, the Alliance for America’s Future shouldn’t have to register with the secretary of state. This is a private party engaged in constitutionally protected speech. Especially near an election, the government has no business blocking expression and limiting the marketplace of ideas.

No one — not the wealthiest businessman, the most politically involved union, nor the average citizen — needs permission from a bureaucrat or elected official to exercise their First Amendment rights.

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