According to documents from the Office of Campaign Finance obtained by DCist, TIE. D.C. was in violation of several campaign finance laws, including failure to officially register as a political committee, failure to file a financial report, and failure to include proper language on its campaign literature.
In response to the allegations against TIE D.C., head William Jones testified in a recent hearing with the OCF that “TIE D.C. was nothing more than a blog that he started to inform the public about the proposed initiative by voting against it.” Jones also stated that he was the chairperson for the “No On 71” initiative, which he argued was the political committee he started to officially campaign against marijuana legalization.
As my regular reader has probably already intuited, I am a huge supporter of Initiative 71 and am glad it won with such a decisive majority. However, William Jones has every right to speak against it and to try to convince others to vote the same. It’s called democracy.
Further, it seems this guy acted in good faith and was probably the victim of election laws that make it too complicated for the average person to participate in the democratic process. He did try to create a separate organization to oppose the Initiative in compliance with campaign finance laws and he claims to have not received any donations for his cause on his TIE DC site. (I can vouch that I personally never gave him a dime!) The Office of Campaign Finance is not however satisfied with his sincere efforts and is after him anyway. It seems that they resent his unwillingness or inability to afford the kind of legal advice that free speech apparently requires.
In my view, picking on this guy is wrong and probably violates some sort of constitutional principle somewhere (the first amendment comes to mind). When an individual’s rights to free speech are stifled by election laws then those election laws no longer stand upon the moral high ground. If this guy had been running a huge multimillion dollar organization then maybe I’d resent him more, but at most he was a harmless and sincere citizen trying to make his voice heard. If the Office of Campaign Finance does not learn to exercise discretion then perhaps it is time to re-examine their power to fine people.
I do not believe it is healthy to rely on stifling opposition in order to win the hearts and minds of the public. It is better to shine the light of public discourse upon various opinions on all sides of an issue and let the public make a fully informed decision. This is NOT what happened when cannabis was originally illegalized (the newspapers were run by a guy who had financial interests in stopping industrial hemp) and the resulting propaganda poisoned the minds of several generations of Americans. We should do better than that. In fact, we must.
We do not need to stifle groups like TIE DC or SAM to win the fight for cannabis re-legalization. We merely need to expose their ideas to public scrutiny. And their sources of funding.