Daily Media Links 6/19: Free to State: A New Era for the First Amendment, Symposium: Is Free Speech Under Threat in the United States?, and more…

In the News

Springfield News-Leader: Privacy for nonprofits should be common sense

By Luke Wachob

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens believes that individuals should be able to support causes they believe in privately. Missourians who donate to nonprofit groups such as the National Rifle Association, he says, should not be forced to have their name, address, occupation and employer appear in a public and searchable government database…

Governor Greitens should be commended for bucking the trend of politicians, like Schumer and McCaskill, who attempt to silence their critics. In supporting privacy and free speech, the governor protects both his supporters and detractors from retaliation.

Policymakers should seek balance between transparency and privacy. We have a right to know what our government is doing, but the government has no right to monitor our political affiliations or beliefs. Requiring candidates and parties to disclose their donors, while protecting privacy for nonprofit advocacy groups, is a compromise everyone should get behind.

Supreme Court

U.S. News & World Report: U.S. Top Court Says Law Banning Disparaging Trademarks Is Unconstitutional

By Andrew Chung, Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a law forbidding official registration of offensive trademarks unconstitutionally limits free speech in a case involving a band called The Slants, an outcome the government has said could lead to a proliferation of racial slurs as sanctioned trademarks.

The court ruled in favor of Portland, Oregon-based Asian-American dance rock band The Slants, which had been denied a trademark because the government deemed the name disparaging to people of Asian descent. The band challenged the rejection as a violation of free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, winning at the appeals court level before the government appealed to the high court…

After the government rejected The Slants request, band frontman Simon Tam appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, which in 2015 ruled that the so-called disparagement provision of the 1946 law governing trademarks ran afoul of the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech.

New York Times: Supreme Court Strikes Down Sex Offender Social Media Ban

By Associated Press

The Supreme Court has struck down a North Carolina law that bars convicted sex offenders from Facebook, Twitter and other popular sites.

The justices ruled unanimously Monday in favor of North Carolina resident Lester Packingham Jr. His Facebook boast about beating a traffic ticket led to his conviction for violating a 2008 law aimed at keeping sex offenders off internet sites children might use.

The court rejected the state’s argument that the law deals with the virtual world in the same way that states keep sex offenders out of playgrounds and other places children visit.


Washington Post: Free to State: A New Era for the First Amendment

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression as a foundation of our democracy, and serves as a model for democracies around the world. Yet, the boundaries of these protections are being challenged by modern technology, political tension and changing social norms.

The Washington Post will bring together journalists, scholars, business leaders and advocates to explore how the interpretation of our First Amendment rights have evolved in principle and practice, and what it means for a modern democracy.

Program: 3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

The Washington Post | 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C.

Register here.

Free Speech

Commentary: Symposium: Is Free Speech Under Threat in the United States?

By The Editors

In April, Commentary asked a wide variety of writers,

thinkers, and broadcasters to respond to this question: Is free speech under threat in the United States? We received twenty-seven responses. We publish them here in alphabetical order.


Daily Caller: Congress To Hold Hearing On ‘Assault’ Of Campus Free Speech

By Kerry Picket   

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley announced Friday a witness list for a hearing next week to explore First Amendment restrictions on college campuses…

Called “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses,” the hearing will likely include issues pertaining to campus speakers disinvited by school administrators over the speakers’ views as well as student and faculty free speech on campus.

Recent violent incidents on college campuses sparked by leftist protesters gave some lawmakers pause as to how to approach the problem.

Florida Republican Rep. Francis Rooney, a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, suggested last week that congress could consider limiting funds from universities that restrict free speech rights on campus.


USA Today: Tax credits for small donors in politics should be part of tax reformTax credits for small donors in politics should be part of tax reform

By Lawrence Norden and John Pudner 

Since the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, a series of Supreme Court rulings has eviscerated wide swaths of federal campaign finance law. That has led to Super PACs, “dark money” groups and widespread voter disenchantment. Yet in the last decade, Congress has failed to adopt any major reforms that could increase the participation and voice of average citizens.

So, how do we break the logjam? We think the key is to find a starting point where there is common ground. Counterintuitively, that starting place could be the current discussions on tax reform happening at the federal and state levels…

If structured the right way, tax credits could increase and diversify participation in the electoral process by having a larger pool of Americans making campaign contributions. They could encourage candidates and parties to connect with a broader swath of prospective voters by having them spend more time fundraising from them. And they could encourage a more diverse group of candidates to run by assuring they’d have enough small donors to get their messages out – even if there are no huge donors sponsoring their campaigns.

The States

Wisconsin Gazette: Wisconsin Dems push for campaign finance reform

By Louis Weisberg

Democratic state senators have joined with clean-government advocates in rolling out a package of eight bills to strengthen Wisconsin campaign finance laws.

At a news conference in Madison June 7, state Sen. Chris Larson introduced his “Campaign Integrity” package, which he and other supporters said would bring back fair elections to Wisconsin…

“It is our right as citizens to have a strong voice in a healthy democracy and not to be buried by the bags of corporate special interest money that are now free to be dumped into Wisconsin campaigns,” Larson said.

For emphasis, he and other speakers at the news conference stood near a pile of white sacks marked with dollar signs…

Larson consulted with the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Common Cause to author seven of the eight bills included in the package…

U.S. News & World Report: Idaho Leaders Assign Lawmakers to Address Campaign Laws

By Kimberlee Kruesi, Associated Press

House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill announced Friday they want the group to find ways to increase transparency in the timing and reporting of campaign activity surrounding candidates, political action committees and lobbyists.

Bedke and Hill have also instructed the 10-member group to look at requiring personal financial disclosures for state lawmakers – Idaho is just one of three states with no such requirement – and implementing laws that prevent elected officials from immediately moving into similar roles in the private sector, also known as “revolving-door” policies…

In 2016, ethics and campaign disclosure advocates attempted to get a voter initiative on the November ballot that would have drastically changed candidate donations limits, increased penalties for campaign violations and ban certain gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers. The initiative failed to get enough signatures, but Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has since come out in favor of many of the reforms proposed and has urged the Idaho Legislature to take up the cause.

The Blaze: State officials, union desperately fight to silence think tank

By Justin Haskins

The union and Washington state government claim the Freedom Foundation is violating the union’s rights by working to inform citizens caught up in a Medicare “scam” they have a right to opt out of being in the union or avoid paying mandated fees…

To stop the tremendous losses SEIU has endured as a result of the Freedom Foundation’s efforts, SEIU filed three lawsuits against the Freedom Foundation in September 2016, and according to the Freedom Foundation, which now has a team of legal experts working full time to battle the claims against it, its small office has been overwhelmed with numerous legal requests, including depositions and subpoenas. The Freedom Foundation says it has paid more than $1.4 million in legal fees to defend its right to inform people they don’t need to join a union…

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed lawsuits against the Freedom Foundation as well, alleging the group has, among other things, violated campaign-finance laws for offering free legal assistance to citizens working to get right-to-work protections passed at the municipal level and for allegedly failing to report staff expenditures on the correct government form. 

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.