By Kyle Olson
BOISE – Idaho’s Republican Secretary of State filed a lawsuit against a non-profit group, Education Voters of Idaho, seeking detailed information about the group’s funders.
The group, regulated as a 501(c)(4) organization by the IRS, is supporting issue ads with the slogan, “Education reform for the 21st century is as simple as 1, 2, 3,” presumably a reference to the education reforms on the ballot as Proposals 1, 2 and 3.
Those proposals are referendums on the Nov. 6 ballot regarding the state’s sweeping education reforms. EVI clearly supports the reforms.
The Secretary of State, Ben Ysursa, is claiming jurisdiction over the group’s speech, demanding that it file as a “political committee,” and be subject to state sunshine laws that require detailed identification of funding sources.
Under IRS guidelines, 501(c)(4) organizations are not required to publicly identify funders.
This is not the first time a politician has sought to create a barrier to entry into the realm of political expression. Those already engaged in political discourse traditionally seek to build walls that make it difficult for newcomers to become involved in the process, particularly when the newcomers have a different point of view.
Last week, EAGnews reported on a somewhat similar situation in Maryland in which the state Democratic Party demanded that state officials silence a group running ads against in-state college tuition rates for illegal immigrants.
There, too, the political establishment sought to make it more difficult, through rules and regulations, to engage in political speech.
Meanwhile, leaders of EVI told the Spokesman-Review that they offered to refund the $200,000 they gave to another group, Parents for Education Reform, which ran TV ads. That wasn’t good enough for Ysursa.
“I welcome the involvement of EVI in the electoral process and do not wish to limit their participation,” he said.
Yet that’s precisely the outcome by hauling a group into court that is presumably playing by the rules established by the Internal Revenue Service.