307 Politics: Wyoming ranked high for ‘free speech,’ but definition is iffy

Supreme Court Campaign Finance
Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in 2013 to protest campaign finance. The Institute for Free Speech released its first-ever “Free Speech Index” recently, which considers political contributions as protected.

Hello readers! Hope everyone is having a good Monday morning. Apologies for our brief hiatus last week but 307 Politics is back in full force. For those who were waiting with bated breath to find out the true term for people from Gillette, I’m happy to announce we… sort of have an answer? City of Gillette communications manage Geno Palazzari said he goes with “Gilletten,” which is the same term a few other readers shared with me by email. As always, you can “like” us at Facebook.com/307politics or follow on Twitter @307politics. I’ve also replaced the old professional Facebook page I used to post articles when I covered Casper for the Star-Tribune with an email newsletter that you can sign-up for at arno.substack.com to keep up with my Star-Tribune articles that don’t make it into this weekly 307 Politics email.

I’ve written before about the weird, nationwide surveys and rankings that slot Wyoming in the strangest of places (the state with the highest level of racial equality, for example). In general, these rankings serve as an easy publicity tool for the groups that sponsor them. But I stumbled upon perhaps the oddest one I’ve seen yet recently.

It quickly became clear that by “free speech,” the Virginia-based group means political contributions. Whether political donations qualify as speech protected by the First Amendment was, of course, the underlying question in the controversial “Citizens United” United States Supreme Court decision in 2010. The Court decided that, yes, money is speech.

While political operatives with access to major donors celebrated the decision, the whole money-as-free-speech argument never seemed to catch on with average Americans. We all seem to understand that expressing one’s ideas is clearly protected by the Constitution. But paying for the cost of a private jet to transport a candidate? Well, that’s a little more iffy as public perception…

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