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IRS and FEC Gag Political Speech

Emergency - Oppose The IRS And FEC Proposals To Clamp Down On the Alliance's Right To Communicate With Fellow Reformers

Fax Congress Now!!

Two Bush administration agencies are considering new rules that could prevent the Drug Policy Alliance and other advocacy groups from contacting their supporters about the political actions of federal officials who are up for re-election. Communications just like this one could be banned!

The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) proposals could provide members of Congress with a green light to introduce and pass harmful drug policies while they are up for re-election. The proposals could make it against the law for the Alliance to run advertisements in a newspaper or send out email alerts like this one to try and stop harmful policies. Together, these proposals represent one of the worst assaults on the freedom of speech and association ever proposed in the United States.

1) Fax Your Members of Congress. Tell them that you oppose FEC Advisory Opinion 2003-37 and IRS Revenue Ruling 2004-6 and that neither the IRS nor the FEC should restrict free speech. DO IT NOW. If you do not respond to this urgent alert, the controversial proposals will likely be adopted, endangering the future of the Alliance and all other political organizations working for freedom in America.

2) Forward this alert to friends and family.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The IRS and FEC are considering rulings that could severely restrict the free speech rights of the Drug Policy Alliance and other issue advocacy groups. The proposed rulings are vague in that they do not clearly state exactly which communications would be illegal. This means that the federal government could selectively enforce the rules in order to clamp down on any speech or advertising it does not approve of or considers politically threatening. Even though the Drug Policy Alliance does not endorse or oppose specific candidates for public office, the proposed IRS and FEC actions could hamper our efforts to contact fellow reformers like you about candidates' stances on drug policy reform issues during election campaigns. Any member of Congress up for re-election could be able to push their legislation into law without hearing the voice of the American people.

The IRS ruling (Revenue Ruling 2004-6) could penalize drug policy reform and other nonprofit organizations that are publicly critical of any elected official who is running for re-election. Non-profit educational organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance cannot work to defeat or support federal candidates, but can educate voters on where politicians stand on certain issues. So long as the Alliance and other organizations do not explicitly call for the defeat or re-election of a politician we do not run afoul of the law. However, Revenue Ruling 2004-6 muddies these regulations to make it illegal for advocacy group to do anything that the IRS determines to be an attempt at defeat or support of a candidate for federal office. The change appears minor but in fact makes the regulations more vague, giving the IRS a wide scope to call many advocacy-group actions illegal.

You can read the complex IRS ruling here.

The FEC ruling (Advisory Opinion 2003-37) could prohibit the Alliance and other organizations from communicating any message - through e-mails, newspaper ads, television commercials or brochures - that "promotes, supports, attacks, or opposes" any candidate for federal office. It does this by re-defining the definition of a "campaign expenditure" to include communications that promote or attack federal candidates. Because the Alliance and similar non-profits are prohibited under existing law from making campaign expenditures, this ruling could make it illegal for us to send you e-mails criticizing the actions of a Member of Congress if they also happen to be running for re-election. Even sending you an e-mail saying that your Senator just voted the wrong way on a bill could become illegal. For instance, Senator Biden first introduced his controversial RAVE Act just a few months before the 2002 elections. Because he was up for re-election that year, it may have been illegal for the Alliance to alert you to the bill had the FEC and IRS rulings been in place then.

You can read the complex FEC ruling here.

An essential part of the Alliance's work is to keep fellow reformers informed about the actions and votes of elected officials - whether a move by President Bush to crack down on medical marijuana or a Congressman's bill to mandate student drug testing. These proposals could severely limit our ability to do this and work to reform America's 'War on Drugs'.

Learn More - Contact the Drug Policy Alliance:

Drug Policy Alliance
70 West 36th Street, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10018

For subscription problems please contact
Jeanette Irwin, Director, Internet Communications
jirwin@drugpolicy.org
| 202.216.0035

In this Alliance Action Network Alert we need you to:

To view other actions, see actions you've completed, or edit your profile please visit the Alliance Personal Action Center

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alerts@actioncenter.drugpolicy.org
.

Please visit actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/unsubscribe to unsubscribe from all lists. Visit actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/managesubscription.asp to learn about other lists you can subscribe to.

For problems, please contact Jeanette Irwin at jirwin@drugpolicy.org.

Please consider joining the Drug Policy Alliance: www.drugpolicy.org/join
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Sources for my political art:
www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0206/krug.html
www.jimostrowski.com/articles/first5.html
usconservatives.about.com/library/weekly/aaflaga.htm
www.mnclu.org/newsletter/nl-sep2003/speech.html

UpDate

February 18, 2004 text version

The Alliance and Coalition Sue Government

Congress Censors Drug Policy Reformers

Help Support Our Lawsuit Against the Government!!!

Congress recently passed a law muzzling our right to speak out for drug policy reform. Now, with your help, we are fighting to win back that right.

A full house of local and national media turned out at the National Press Club today to hear that the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU, Change the Climate, and Marijuana Policy Project are filing a lawsuit against the federal government and the Washington, D.C. transit system. Our lawsuit charges that the D.C. transit system rejected an ad by our coalition because of a new federal law, promoted by Representative Ernest Istook (R-OK), that suppresses free speech. The law prohibits federal funding to any local transit authority that accepts and displays an ad criticizing the government's drug policy. Our forbidden ad, which the D.C. transit system rejected last week, states the facts about the government's severe and wasteful marijuana laws.

Already 10,000 of you helped the Alliance's campaign against this government censorship by faxing your Representatives and Senators in Congress. Thank you! Now that we're filing the lawsuit, we need your help again. It's not cheap to beat the federal government in court!!! Please make a donation here. (Contributions to support our litigation efforts, as opposed to lobbying, are tax-deductible.)

Istook's amendment, which was included in the huge FY 2004 omnibus spending bill, directs Congress to deny federal funds to local transit authorities that display advertisements promoting "the legalization or medical use of any substance listed in schedule I...of the Controlled Substances Act" - including marijuana. The same law also hands over $145 million in taxpayer money for pro-'War on Drugs' advertising - especially anti-marijuana campaigns.

Think what the government is doing! They're throwing our taxpayer dollars down the drain on ineffective and offensive drug war propaganda while prohibiting our ability to promote alternatives to current government policies. But, with your support, we're not going to let the government get away with this blatant violation of our First Amendment rights.

Support the Drug Policy Alliance and our partners as we take the government to court. Help to protect the Constitution and ensure that Americans hear from all sides on drug policy reform issues!!! Please make a tax-deductible donation here.

To Contact or Make a Donation by Mail to the Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Policy Alliance

70 West 36th Street, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Get a PDF copy of the Donation Form.
For subscription problems please contact Jeanette Irwin, Director, Internet
Communications jirwin@drugpolicy.org, 202.216.0035

DrugPolicy.org | Donate | Privacy Policy

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Please visit actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/unsubscribe to unsubscribe from all lists. Visit actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/managesubscription.asp to learn about other lists you can subscribe to.

For problems, please contact Jeanette Irwin at jirwin@drugpolicy.org.

Please consider joining the Drug Policy Alliance: www.drugpolicy.org/join

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Freedom of speech about drugs under attack! Destroying the First Amendment on a witch hunt. Church + State = Witch Trials!
www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2000/06/methupdate.html

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UPDATE!

June 09, 2004 text version

An Exciting Victory for the Drug Policy Alliance

Dear Fellow Reformer,

We won big.

Beating the federal government in court is something the Drug Policy Alliance does regularly - probably because the White House and the Congress seem to have no shame when it comes to violating the Constitution in the name of the drug war.

Last week we beat them again, winning our lawsuit to strike down a recent federal law banning marijuana reform ads in public transit systems.

You may remember that we filed suit in February to have the law declared unconstitutional. The measure, pushed by Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), prohibited federal support for any transit system that permits pro-reform advertising. A federal judge in Washington last week concluded that the so-called "Istook Amendment" does indeed violate the First Amendment.

Now that our right to campaign for marijuana reform has been restored, we need to exercise it. Together with our allies who joined us in the suit -- the ACLU, Marijuana Policy Project and Change the Climate -- we want to run ads that tell the truth about the drug war.

Please help us send Ernie Istook a message by making a generous donation to our campaign. Your funds will pay not just for ads, but for our efforts to stop the government from spending your money on drug war propaganda. Donate now via our convenient and secure page.

Every ad we create sends two messages. First, that the "war on drugs" is a disaster for this country that is causing far more harm than good. Second, the ads serve notice that we will never stand silent in the face of mean-spirited and misguided attacks by drug warriors like Ernest Istook or John Ashcroft. They can toss taxpayer dollars down the drain on frivolous lawsuits and dishonest anti-drug propaganda, but the truth will always win in the end.

In declaring the "Istook Amendment" unconstitutional, Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia stated that "there is a clear public interest in preventing the chilling of speech on the basis of viewpoint" and that "the government articulated no legitimate state interest in the suppression of this particular speech other than the fact that it disapproves of the message, an illegitimate and constitutionally impermissible reason."

The Istook ruling is only the latest legal victory in our efforts to foster policies based on science and compassion. The Alliance won another one for the First Amendment last year in the Conant case, which protected the rights of doctors and patients to discuss the medicinal benefits of marijuana. We beat the feds again in the WAMM case, relying on constitutional limitations on what the federal government can tell states to do. There have been other wins as well, and there will be more.

Meanwhile, Istook and other drug war zealots are fighting back, denouncing the ruling and pressing on with their crusade against free speech and compassion. John Ashcroft and Drug Czar John Walters have more than $100 million in taxpayer dollars ear-marked for drug propaganda in the coming year alone.

It's amazing how far we've come with the political cards stacked against us. I think it speaks to the rightness of our cause. It is also why I call on fellow reformers like you to be as generous as possible in supporting our efforts.

Help us take on Istook and other drug war zealots by donating now.

Our fight for marijuana and drug reform is unfolding in every public forum - the courts, the states, the Congress, and thanks to the Constitution, buses and subways. With the continued support of folks like you, we'll go all the way.

Sincerely,

P.S. Also, please join us online for a free live audio chat on marijuana with renowned author Eric Schlosser on June 15th at 3 PM Eastern/Noon Pacific. Watch your inbox or check www.drugpolicy.org/news/schlosser_chat.cfm for more details.

To Contact or Make a Donation by Mail to the Drug Policy Alliance:

Drug Policy Alliance
70 West 36th Street, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Get a PDF copy of the Donation Form. For subscription problems please contact Jeanette Irwin, Director, Internet Communications jirwin@drugpolicy.org, 202.216.0035

DrugPolicy.org | Donate | Privacy Policy



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