RLCNH Urges Defeat of Senate Gag-order Language in HB 1704 that Limits Criticism of Legislators

CONCORD, N.H.—The Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire is deeply troubled by a Senate Committee Amendment to HB 1704 that would make it harder for political organizations such as the RLCNH to criticize elected state senators and state representatives, an activity at the very heart of our Republic that is protected by our state and federal constitutions.

The Senate Amendment, which the RLCNH is calling the “Incumbent Protection Act,” would essentially put a gag order on political committees by preventing them from spending more than $500 criticizing members of the Legislature without disclosing the expenditure within 24 hours. Also under the amendment, political organizations, including 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations, would be required to disclose the names of all donors to the Secretary of State prior to the primary election.

“I’m stunned that Senate Republicans would advance an amendment that is so clearly motivated out of political self-interest,” said Carolyn McKinney, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire. “We expect this type of power-grabbing bill from statists and Democrats, but we expect Republicans in the Senate and in the House to put the rights of the People above their own political ambitions.”

It’s important to note that Section 12 of the bill under the Senate Amendment would not require reporting when political groups express support for legislators. Reporting would only be required when these groups’ expressions are “critical” of senators and representatives. For groups such as the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire on the right, and yes, even groups like Granite State Progress on the left, this amendment language would effectively silence political criticism.

“Nonprofit, issue-based groups on both the right and the left—groups for limited government and groups that want a powerful central government—are formed to help keep elected officials accountable to their campaign promises and to the people they represent,” McKinney said. “Stifling our voices using onerous government regulation is not in the public interest. It is purely in the interest of incumbent politicians who don’t like the criticism that their own actions bring about.”

It’s also important to note that groups such as the RLCNH are driven by volunteer efforts from activists who spend their own time and money advocating for what they truly believe in. A requirement to report donors within 24 hours of a campaign against a poorly performing legislator will take limited human resources away from the core mission of the organization and will simply limit these activists’ right to speak freely against the problems in their government.

It’s incredible, also, that this Senate amendment goes much further in its restriction of political speech than any federal requirements. With all of its extensive reporting requirements and its history of going too far with its initiatives, the federal government does not require nonprofit, issue-advocacy organizations to disclose their donors, but the Senate amendment would require disclosure of donors who give as little as $25. The RLCNH urges defeat of this amendment.