New Bill Threatens Free Speech And Advocacy Organizations Across Tennessee

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –

Existing on both sides of the political aisle, advocacy groups can often be a vital part of the relationship between constituents and representatives.

HB0183, filed by Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin-District 65) and the corresponding SB0160, filed by Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville-District 7), would directly affect the autonomy of advocacy organizations across the state, such as Tennessee Stands and Tennessee Right to Life.


According to the bill summary, this legislation “designates ‘political campaign committees’ and ‘multicandidate political campaign committees’ as ‘political action committees’; [and] makes various changes to campaign finance laws and the duties of the registry of election finance.” 

On January 20th, 2023, HB0183 and SB0160 were passed on first consideration and are now awaiting committee assignment.

While the large part of this 10-page bill focuses on other aspects of campaign finance, the language in Section 1 of this legislation effectively redefines what a “political action committee” is.

The widely accepted definition of a political action committee (PAC) is maintained as “an organization that raises money to influence elections or legislation.” While these exist at a federal level, there are state level PACs like Stand for Tennessee


Section 1 of this legislation states that a “political action committee” would be defined as:

A) A club, corporation, association, or other group of persons that receives contributions or makes expenditures to support or oppose a measure; or

 B) A club, corporation, association, or other group of persons that receives contributions or makes expenditures to support or oppose two (2) or more candidates for public office during a calendar year, and the contributions or expenditures in the aggregate exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000)”

This conversion of advocacy organizations into PACs would place all the campaign finance regulations that apply to PACs onto advocacy organizations as well. Even though these advocacy organizations were not formed as PACs and do not exist for the sole purpose of political campaign fundraising. 

If this bill becomes law, current advocacy organizations would be put in a difficult position, with very few options to choose from. 

Either conform to the redefinition of their organization and be subject to regulations and penalties originally meant for campaign financing or allow themselves to be silenced on important legislative issues and the endorsement of political figures.


Additionally, this bill does not contain clarifying language regarding what expenditures of support or opposition of a candidate or measure might actually look like. 

This could cause confusion on what organizations are redefined as PACs. If a news source such as The Tennessee Conservative were to support or oppose a measure or candidate in its reporting, or as a company, and expenditures are made for publication, would that news source then be redefined as a political action committee?

The bill, as introduced, is unclear.

The United States maintains a “freedom of speech” unique to any other country, and this bill could potentially limit that freedom for Tennessee’s advocacy organizations, clubs, corporations, and associations. 

About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee.

4 thoughts on “New Bill Threatens Free Speech And Advocacy Organizations Across Tennessee

  • January 23, 2023 at 4:59 pm

    Feels like loosing
    Lawsuits as soon as Tn Rino legislature passes bill

  • January 23, 2023 at 5:24 pm

    OK – so what action should I take to squelch these bills? You should have included that info AND links to make it easily (1-click) accessible

  • January 23, 2023 at 10:09 pm

    Richard Briggs doesn’t even live in his District. But the RINO GOP let’s him break the law.

    • January 24, 2023 at 3:26 pm

      He does now. They conveniently re-districted him into it.


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