Though their role in the controversy was largely unsung, the Rochester Tea Party Patriots were among the conservative groups targeted by the IRS in recent years, arbitrarily denied their 501(c)3 status despite meeting every required benchmark.
The group, based in the Minnesota city where the Mayo Clinic is located, has once again drawn government persecution. This time, the culprits hail from the local school district. A referendum will soon go before voters asking for more money. As one might imagine, the Tea Party group seeks to vote the referendum down. Their efforts to that effect have attracted legal threats from the district. The Rochester Post Bulletin reports:
A few weeks ago, the Rochester school district put out a flier regarding the levy referendum coming up on Nov. 3.
Not long after, the Rochester Tea Party Patriots put out a flier opposed to the levy that looks an awful lot like the district’s, down to the colors, type and design.
The school district was not amused. The Post-Bulletin has learned that on Oct. 7, the district’s attorney delivered a cease-and-desist letter to the Tea Party Patriots, claiming infringement of its intellectual property rights. The letter from attorneys Michael Waldspurger and John P. Edison, of the Minneapolis law firm Rupp, Anderson, Squires and Waldspurger, demands that the Tea Party “immediately cease and desist” from the infringement.
The attorneys also claim that the flier violates state election law. “It is a violation of Minnesota law for an individual to intentionally participate in the preparation, dissemination or broadcast of campaign material that is false under circumstances where the individual knows the material is false or communicates information to others with reckless disregard of whether it is false,” the letter says, citing at least two examples of what the district calls false information.
Both of these complaints appear ludicrous on their face. If one could violate intellectual property law by mimicking color schemes and typeface, nearly every Hollywood film would trigger a lawsuit.
The complaint alleging false information in campaign material is even more laughable. Even in the modern era of judicial activism, judges tend to err on the side of free speech, especially in a campaign context.
The intention of the district appears to be intimidation. While the complaints are ridiculous, the expense of defending against them could prove enough to deter further activity from the Rochester Tea Party Patriots. That said, the group is standing firm:
We want you to be aware, as we always do, we have the facts and proof for all the information we have put out and will not be intimidated by any government or non-government body trying to silence citizens.
It’s going to take more than a letter to hold these guys down.