New Legislation Seeks To Censor News Outlets And Companies In Tennessee

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

New Republican-sponsored legislation has been filed that could be used to effectively censor news outlets and businesses across the state of Tennessee.

House Bill 0183 (HB0183), sponsored by Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin-District 65) and Senate Bill 0160 (SB0160), sponsored by Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville-District 7) seeks to redefine a Political Action Committee (PAC) 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)”

Of note, the language of the bill states that a “club, corporation, association, or other group of persons”  does not have to receive contributions for “a measure” or for “candidates.” Rather, only expenditures would need to be made supporting or opposing either to be redefined as a PAC under this legislation.


Consider any news outlet that prints articles that have language that either directly supports/opposes a measure or candidate or simply publishes articles that have language within that could be interpreted as such.

News outlets, like all other companies, have operating costs.  Most articles are not written for free, nor are they printed, distributed or published on any platform for free.  Under this legislation’s broad net, without exclusions made for such a company, these expenditures could qualify the news outlet as a PAC.

Also consider the wide array of companies/corporations that the company itself, or a representative thereof, makes contributions to political candidates in excess of two-thousand dollars.  From small businesses to large corporations across the state, this legislation, if passed into law, would force them to register as PACs.

The widely accepted definition of a political action committee (PAC) is maintained as “an organization that raises money to influence elections or legislation.” 

Even though these news outlets and companies do not exist for the purpose of political campaign fundraising or for the sole purpose of supporting/opposing any particular measure or political candidate, this forced conversion into PACs would place all the campaign finance regulations that apply to PACs onto these groups as well.

Under current Tennessee law, all PACs are required to report every donation and expenditure to the state. 

Under the regulatory authority of the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, when a PAC steps out of line, they have the power to fine the PAC up to $10,000 or close the organization. 

Further, a law that passed last year states that the person “running” a PAC is directly responsible for paying any fines assessed by the state, out of pocket. Meaning, it is now illegal to use money raised by the PAC to pay fines assessed by the state.

If this bill becomes law, news outlets and companies would be put in a difficult position, with very few options to choose from. 

News outlets and companies could choose to conform to the redefinition of their organizations and be subject to regulations and penalties originally meant for campaign financing or allow themselves to be silenced on important legislative issues and the support or opposition of political figures.

Further, many small businesses and grassroots news outlets do not have the staff and/or skill sets needed to regularly update the state on all expenditures and contributions.


The legislation, if passed into law, would affect advocacy groups in much the same way.

The current law’s definition of PAC excludes advocacy work and education many groups have as their primary focus.  With the new definition, that exclusion goes away.

In effect, the legislation seeks to eliminate all 501(c)(4) advocacy organizations in Tennessee and redefine them all as Political Action Committees. 

Whether it is the “intent” of the bill framers to chill free speech and limit the rights of Tennesseans is irrelevant.  This legislation, if passed into law, would have a lasting negative impact on all Tennesseans.


The Tennessee Conservative urges you to reach out to the bill sponsors and ask them to permanently withdraw this legislation from consideration. Their contact information can be found below.

Senator Richard Briggs (R) – – (615) 741-1766

Representative Sam Whitson (R) – – (615) 741-1864

Senate Bill 0160 has been assigned to the Senate State and Local Government Committee and placed on their calendar for consideration on January 31st, 2023.

The Tennessee Conservative urges you to promptly reach out to the Senators on the Committee and express your opposition to the bill. Their contact information can be found below.

Senator Richard Briggs (R) – Chair- – (615) 741-1766

Senator Page Walley (R) – Vice Chair – – (615) 741-2368

Senator Mark Pody (R) – 2nd Vice Chair – – (615) 741-2421

Senator Ed Jackson (R) – – (615) 741-1810

Senator Sara Kyle (R) – – (615) 741-4167

Senator Adam Lowe (R) – – (615) 741-0374

Senator John Stevens (R) – – (615) 741-4576

Senator Ken Yager (R) – – (615) 741-1449

Senator Jeff Yarbro (D) – – (615) 741-3291

Although it has not yet been put on the calendar, House Bill 0183 has been assigned to the House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee for consideration.

The Tennessee Conservative urges you to reach out to the Representatives on the subcommittee and express your opposition to the bill. Their contact information can be found below.

Rep. Tim Rudd (R) – Chair – – (615) 741-2804

Rep. Jeff Burkhart (R) – – (615) 741-6804

Rep. John Crawford (R) – – (615) 741-7623

Rep. Clay Doggett (R) – – (615) 741-7476

Rep. Esther Helton-Hayes (R) – – (615) 741-1934

Rep. Larry J. Miller (D) – – (615) 741-4453

Rep. Jerome Moon (R) – – (615) 741-5481

About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at

6 thoughts on “New Legislation Seeks To Censor News Outlets And Companies In Tennessee

  • January 27, 2023 at 4:04 pm

    I moved here thinking TN was a red state and different from my purple state. It is and worse. This legislation is no different from that of many in the federal government trying to censor half the country, or the Disney conglomerate, including Direct TV & AT&T removing One American News and Newsmax from viewership. Too many elected officials at all levels of government assume the role of tyrant, with our role being their subjects. I believe a revolution was started pretty much for the same reason. It is up to us to save the country, TN, and our constitution, including freedom of the press!

  • January 27, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    I have recently returned to TN from Texas and have really had my eyes opened to the corruption in Tennessee government, even on Bill Lee’s watch. God will be their judge, and God is not mocked. There will be consequences to what they are doing (secretly changing words in the Constitution to give them more power, allowing the deceit and lies, and looking away from the child mutilation of Vanderbilt Univ., and so much more). Taxes have become thievery. Our freedoms are eroding because of their dishonesty. We must fight every way we can. It is our moral obligation!

  • January 28, 2023 at 6:54 pm

    This would be censorship.

  • January 29, 2023 at 2:14 pm

    They lust for power and have not the servants heart. Here in Memphis I see the infrastructure being put into place to establish a police state here. They were not satisfied with cameras on every light corner. Now they want cameras in between . And the 5g antennas are within the line of sight with each other. Also seeing LED street lights starting to replace the standard high pressure sodium that served so well for decades. Smart meters, cameras, 5g, electric cars , none of this is for the benefit of mankind. It’s to fulfill their demonic lust for power. And their disdain for us useless eaters.


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