Tea Party Patriots Board Member Ernest Istook Testifies About FEC Attempts to Regulate Speech


TPP Board Member Ernest Istook testified before the Federal Elections Commission about the dangers of expanding regulation of speech in our country. Here is the transcript of his testimony:


Thank you for this hearing.

I am Ernest Istook, former 14-year US Congressman from Oklahoma. I am here for myself and on behalf of Tea Party Patriots, a 501c4 organization on whose board of directors I serve. Tea Party Patriots is a nationwide grassroots organization with which hundreds of local groups have chosen to affiliate. Its funding comes from hundreds of thousands of small donors and very little from large contributors.

I and we oppose any attempt by the FEC to expand its regulation of speech. The current regulations cause enough problems, expense, and infringements on liberty. Please do not make things worse.

All government attempts to regulate political speech have fundamental problems with our First Amendment freedoms,, whether you label that activity as electioneering, dark money, or anything else. The First Amendment protects not only our speech but also our freedom of association, which is part of the right to peaceably assemble.

Such regulations pretend to be narrowly-drawn, but in fact will inevitably expand into ever-growing forms of government censorship. It also adds very real prospects of the selective enforce political debates. Therefore the topics that are subject to regulation grows endlessly.

Because government is everywhere, speech everywhere can be deemed political and therefore part of electioneering and therefore regulated by FEC or any other agency.

Here is a partial list of ongoing political debates:


  • Our health
  • Our insurance
  • Our medical providers
  • The foods we eat
  • Levels of sodium, fat, cholesterol and other content
  • Millions of school lunches every day
  • What we buy at the grocery
  • What we buy at restaurants
  • How much water we use, even in the shower
  • Our driving habits
  • The affordability of cars, refrigerators, washing machines, toasters and other appliances large and small
  • Our electric bills
  • Our children’s education
  • The values promoted or criticized in public schools
  • Whether an organization can even exist if its goals contradict those of government
  • The weather (including controversies over global warming and climate change)
  • The definitions of marriage and family


This is only a tiny sample. All these and a multitude more have become political controversies, so that discussing them can be deemed political and regulated as electioneering.

Because government keeps expanding, so would the regulation of political speech be a monster that threatens our freedoms.

Second inherent reason these proposals expand is the time factor. Almost every day is Election Day someplace, so efforts to regulate so-called electioneering within 30 days, 60 days or any other proximity to an election becomes a 365-day a year restriction.

Any item posted on the Internet or emailed has no geographic boundaries but is available anywhere, including places where it is campaign season. You cannot restrict access to those constantly shifting locations. You cannot isolate Indiana, Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania or any area. Such control efforts become a de facto restriction of all efforts to communicate nationwide.


Please visit www.istook.com for more of Ernest’s commentaries!