MacIver Institute Fights for its Free Speech Rights

The MacIver Institute has joined several other groups and individuals in a fight for their free speech rights.

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy is a Wisconsin non-profit think tank, fully qualified as tax exempt under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. We provide the public with original news reporting, analysis and commentary on the actions and policies of state and local governments, including the actions and policies of specific elected public servants.

The MacIver Institute cares about public policy and the impact public policy decisions will have on Wisconsin’s future. Like all such organizations, the MacIver Institute must certify compliance with IRS regulations, including a certification that it has not engaged in political activities. If we fail to comply, we can lose our tax exempt status.

Unfortunately, the Government Accountability Board has created its own rule that contradicts the decisions of the United States and Wisconsin Supreme Courts. The new rule labels as “political” activity all communications that identify someone who happens to be a candidate for office and that express approval or disapproval of that person’s character or positions on the issues the communication discusses. If we publish any such communications within 60 days of an election, we must open a bank account, transfer to the account the funds used in publishing the communications, register with the GAB, pay he GAB a $100 fee, identify the communications, file a sworn oath that they are not “independent” expenditures, attach a disclaimer to each one, record them, and file campaign finance reports about our activities, including 24 hour reports during the last 15 days before the election.

The work of state government does not come to a complete stop 60 days prior to an election date.

New administrative rules, burdensome regulations and even public policy ideas will be introduced throughout this time period.

The public has a fundamental right to know what its government is up to and debate these proposals in the public square.

The new GAB rule does not allow the MacIver Institute to provide this public service without the prior approval of the State.

Arbitrarily set time frames for this debate will not work. Unelected bureaucrats should not fear nor curtail this discussion of ideas or interfere with free speech. The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy cannot accede to the newly minted definition of amended GAB 1.28, so we will have little choice but to cease what we have freely and openly done since our inception unless the court intervenes.