Imagine if Sam Adams Had to Provide a Disclaimer

Every school kid knows the refrain of Boston’s Sons of Liberty during revolutionary times of “No Taxation without Representation.” Well, today in Massachusetts that saying would not be allowed without a lengthy disclaimer with founding father Sam Adams face on it.

The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance was opposed to a tax increase by Massachusetts lawmakers, who were at the same time raising their pay and wished to point that out.  Not so fast; Massachusetts law now requires:   

The law forces a group’s top official to say her name, title, the name of the organization she leads, and that the group approved and paid for the ad. But what the CEO of a group looks or sounds like has nothing to do with the validity of the group’s message. A group’s top donors must also be listed on the face of the ad, even if they didn’t know about the ad, let alone donate to fund it.

There are so many problems with this sort of “compelled speech.”  In addition to added costs that result in getting the message out with a lengthy disclaimer, the Institute for Free Speech points out:

These disclaimer rules don’t inform voters – they misinform voters. They can mislead the audience to think the donors listed on an ad paid for it. Or they might cause viewers to judge the ad’s message based on the appearance or other personal characteristics of a group’s leader.

Free speech and the right to question government officials was one of the foremost principles fought for by the Massachusetts founding fathers. Today, Massachusetts’ elected officials are trying to regulate it to minimize or dampen its effect.  If he were alive today, no amount of beer could temper Sam Adams anger at this law.