What’s the state of one of America’s most cherished political qualities, the right to speak your mind freely? From campus speech codes to McCain-Feingold, politicians and others have tried to limit the free expression of the “wrong” ideas. Tonight, a champion of free speech will be in town to give us the latest on the state of free speech where it matters most–in the expression of political ideas.

At the risk of taking some liberties with his history, I’d say that this was a case of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Brad Smith, who has long been a professor at Capital University, in Columbus, Ohio, was of course no naif. But like the Smith of Stewart’s movie, he has been a fierce critic of corruption in the political class. In this case, the corruption revolves around the attempts of the political class to dictate the terms of who may speak when, where, and how on matters political. In short, Professor Smith was against restrictions on political speech long before being against McCain-Feingold was cool. As a result, his appointment to the FEC was derailed for months by advocates of so-called campaign finance reform.

Smith will talk about the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court ruling that caused President Obama to issue an unprecedented scolding of the Supreme Court during a State of the Union Speech. He will also talk about the state of political speech and election law generally.

The freedom to criticize government officials and public policy, and make your views known is not the stuff of horse races (will the blue team or the red team win?). Nor is it something that should be the subject of wonky debates such as those that rule a debate about, say, the specifics of teacher certification. Instead, it’s something that is fundamental to the existence of a representative republic governed by the rule of law.

The event with Professor Smith will be held at the Double Tree in St. Louis Park from 6:30-8:30pm. It will set you back $30, which, last time I checked, is the cost of 3 pies from Pizza Hut. I don’t know what’s on the food menu for the Smith dinner, but if you come you’ll get something far more valuable than another platter of carbs.

The Minnesota Free Market Institute is co-sponsoring the event with the Center of the American Experiment (CAE), the Institute for Justice and the Federalist Society. Call the Center to reserve your spot: 612-338-3605 (ask for Britt Drake at ext 10).