LAS VEGAS - Free speech. Anonymous speech. As American as apple pie.

The First Amendment is quite clear on the whole free speech thing:

"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or

of the press..."  And the Founding Fathers were quite clear on the

anonymous speech thing, with James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and

John Jay authoring the Federalist Papers under aliases.

And yet for the past several years, Nevada Secretary of State Ross

Miller has been on a crusade to stifle free speech by trying to force

non-profit organizations to disclose the identities of their donors

which could, as has happened in the past, subject those supporters to

harassment, intimidation and outright threats.

Fortunately, in a lawsuit Miller filed against Americans for

Prosperity, Senior District Judge Robert Estes recently ruled against

Miller and declared that AFP is "neither required to register with

the Nevada Secretary of State nor report contributions and

expenditures" to the government.

This is an important ruling, especially since Miller has sued my

organization, Citizen Outreach, in a similar case.  A different judge

ruled against us last summer, but we're appealing that decision,

especially in light of the AFP decision.

Clearly, different folks of reasonable mind can come up with

different interpretations as to whether certain advertising

constitutes "express advocacy" or "issue advocacy," making it

painfully obvious that that there is enough ambiguity in the law to

make it virtually impossible for the average citizen to know what the

heck the campaign finance rules are these days.

Equally troubling, however, is how some members of the media have

responded to the AFP decision; siding with Miller and championing

"transparency" (which is not in the Constitution) over free and

anonymous speech.  With all due respect, these folks might want to

rethink their position because...they could be next.

Indeed, there is no special carve-out in the First Amendment for the

press.  If the government can successfully force disclosure of donors

to non-profit organizations, what's to stop it from forcing similar

disclosure reporting of the financing for newspapers (which outright

endorse candidates), columnists and blogs?

Indeed, if the argument is that someone is trying to influence an

election by contributing money anonymously to a non-profit

organization, who's to say someone isn't trying to influence an

election by "advertising" (wink-wink) in a newspaper or paying a

blogger or columnist?

Of course, I'm totally, unalterably opposed to the idea that

newspapers, columnists and bloggers should have to fill out campaign

finance reports and submit them to the government for public

scrutiny.  But that's the slippery path we're treading if we

continue to allow Secretary Miller to continue eroding the same

privacy protections the authors of the Federalist Papers enjoyed.

What's next? Eliminating secret ballots in elections? (Oh,

snap...unions are already doing that!)

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots

advocacy organization. He can be reached at