Author’s Note: Because I get so many emails asking me to weigh in on the modern-day issues related to the Constitution, governmental power, politics, the law, culture, religion and the like — the same topics I report on in my history blog — I will, on occasion, blog under the heading “Thinking Out Loud,” in which I will comment on those issues from my own personal, here-and-now perspective. To that end — fair warning — whereas in the history column I am, for the most part, a dispassionate observer, in this occasional contribution to my blog, I will be opining and often taking sides. My first “Thinking Out Loud” is below. Feel free to weigh in yourself.
Dina Galassini lives in the city of Fountain Hills in the state of Arizona, a state with a history of rugged individualism, a state in which the city of Tombstone became the largest city in the Arizona territory thanks to gold and silver prospecting (a rugged, individualistic enterprise if ever there was one). Tombstone was named, by the way, after a miner who, while filing his claim to prospect for silver in a small patch of Arizona’s desolate and dangerous San Pedro Valley, remembered that several acquaintances had told him he would “find his tombstone” before he ever found the mother lode. Puckishly, he filed his claim under the heading “Tombstone” and filed two later claims under the headings “Graveyard 1” and “Graveyard 2.” Those acquaintances were wrong, as it turned out, and the miner, Ed Schieffelin, who co-founded the Tombstone Gold and Silver Mill Mining Company, became a very wealthy man.
In any case, Ms. Galassini, a long-time resident of this historically individualistic southwestern state, is (unsurprisingly) something of a libertarian — she supports Ron Paul for president — and as a result, according to a recent column by George F. Will, she was not happy with a $29.6 million bond measure proposed by the Fountain Hills city government. So Galassini sent emails to 23 friends and acquaintances, urging them to write letters to newspapers and join her in two demonstrations against the bond measure. But before she could organize the demonstrations, she received a letter from the town clerk that said, “I would strongly encourage you to cease any campaign-related activities until the requirements of the law have been met.”
And what “requirements of the law” had Galassini failed to meet in sending out her emails? Arizona state law says that anytime two or more people work together to influence a vote on a ballot measure, they instantly become a “political committee.” And when one magically becomes a “political committee” in Arizona, one must register with the government; one must file forms; and one must establish a bank account for the “political committee,” even if it has raised no money and has no plans to. Further, these legal requirements must all be met before members of this fictitious “committee” may speak.
Astonished, Galassini sarcastically wrote to ask the clerk if, under Arizona state law, she was permitted to email the 23 persons telling them the demonstrations were canceled. She got no response. Confused, and not a little bitter, she gave up trying to influence the vote.
One other point. In 2009, the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation, which passed in the House but died in the Senate, was more than 1,000 pages long. Hundreds of amendments were added to it in the days and hours before the vote. No one who voted for it, or against it, read the bill in its entirety. By contrast, in September of 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention finally approved and signed the U.S. Constitution — which is not a piece of legislation; it represents our entire government. Written out long-hand, it was four pages long. You can read it in a half hour.