Home Politics Beat: No free speech for Virginia legislators?

Politics Beat: No free speech for Virginia legislators?


Republicans are falling all over themselves to protect the free speech rights of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson. But if a Senate Democrat dares to say anything that a Republican considers to be out of line, well, no free speech for Democrats.

state-capitol2“I’m not targeting anybody. I’m targeting behavior,” said State Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Louisa, who has filed legislation, Senate Bill 12, that would add a 12th subsection to the state’s code of conduct for public officials.

The impetus for the legislation, according to the conservative news website Watchdog.org, is the dust-up from the 2013 gubernatorial campaign involving the Northern Virginia Technology Council PAC and three State Senate Democrats who made vague threats of retaliation against the PAC after it endorsed Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

State Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, wrote in a letter to the PAC that the “ramifications of (Cuccinelli) being endorsed will be huge within the Senate Democratic Caucus. The response will be frigid and doors will be closed. Achieving the goals of NVTC will be difficult to impossible.”

So a PAC exercised its free speech rights to endorse a candidate, and a state senator exercised her free speech rights to say that the PAC shouldn’t expect any help from her or her colleagues. To Garrett, this requires a legislative response that we’d have to assume would run afoul of the actual language in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

You know, the part about government not abridging the freedom of speech.

“It’s sad that we need a law to make this clear,” he said in an interview with Watchdog.org.

It is sad, indeed. Sadder still is that a guy without even a rudimentary understanding of how political debate is supposed to work can get elected to our State Senate.

But keep your attention over there, at Phil Robertson, and his right to have a TV show on A&E being abridged. That’s the real free speech crisis in this country. Not this stuff about trying to put limits on lawmakers. That’s bunk.

Column by Chris Graham



Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.