Bill description: SB 1337 would amend Idaho’s campaign finance laws and would broaden the definition of electioneering communications.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the US Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the US Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
Currently, Idaho law defines an electioneering communication as “any paid communication broadcast by television or radio, printed in a newspaper or on a billboard, directly mailed or delivered by hand to personal residences, or telephone calls made to personal residences, or otherwise distributed that:
(i) Unambiguously refers to any candidate; and
(ii) Is broadcasted, printed, mailed, delivered, made or distributed within thirty (30) days before a primary election or sixty (60) days before a general election; and
(iii) Is broadcasted to, printed in a newspaper, distributed to, mailed to or delivered by hand to, telephone calls made to, or otherwise distributed to an audience that includes members of the electorate for such public office”
In sum, for an expenditure to qualify as an electioneering communication, it must meet a threefold test: it must be directed at voters, must mention a candidate, and it must be distributed just prior to an election.
SB 1337 would eliminate this threefold test and replace it with a broad definition that would ambiguously encompass other forms of communication. The limit for electioneering communications 30 days prior to a primary election and 60 days prior to a general election would be eliminated. If SB 1337 becomes law, any reference made to a candidate at any point in a year would be considered electioneering communication.
If an organization or individual engages in electioneering communications, current Idaho law requires expanded reporting to show where they have received their funds and where they have spent it. To require any organization that makes any mention of a political candidate report this financial data, SB 1337 would infringe on the constitutionally protected right to free speech.
For example, Boise Rescue Mission might include a quote by a member of the state legislature in one of its mailings during the year and a half prior to an election. Under SB 1337, the Mission would be required to file a report that lists any individual or organizations who has donated $50 or more to it.
SB 1337 would put individuals and organizations under a perpetual gag-order, limiting their ability to reference or talk about political candidates without the hindrance of reporting with the Secretary of State.
SB 1337 would also expand the definition of electioneering communications to include paid advertisements on the internet and social media posts. Expanding the definition to encapsulate these two new areas opens a whole litany of regulations on the constitutionally protected right to free speech. SB 1337 does not provide a definition for what constitutes an online or social media advertisement. In failing to do so, SB 1337 could be interpreted expansively to catch a wide range of online communications that would not be classified as electioneering communications under current law.