The combination of a Facebook ad and a recent IR letter (5/14) got me curious today. Both Americans for Progress (the Koch Brothers’ front group) and the letter writer (a xenophobe who organized an anti-immigrant march) argued in favor of overturning Gov. Bullock’s veto on the “campus free speech” bill. A little research showed that another right-wing corporate interest group, ALEC, was also in support of this bill. What an unlikely combination to support free speech!

It turns out that the true goal of this bill is actually to make it easier for organizations like AfP and ALEC to sue colleges and universities. By putting monetary penalties for alleged violations, they can, as the American Association of University Professors notes, "suppress rather than encourage speech by creating a litigious atmosphere that could cause administrators to suppress the voices of student and employee dissenters on campus out of fear of being sued." Note that the cost of these lawsuits would be borne by Montana taxpayers.

Gov. Bullock did the right thing by consulting with the university system rather than accepting a Trojan horse. Giving the bill a name with “free speech” in the title doesn’t make it so anymore than naming bovine excrement a “cow pie” makes it edible.

Ross Nelson


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