In the News The Hill: Americans are smart enough to handle free speech at ballot box By Zac Morgan If you’ve ever scrolled through Facebook or Twitter, or taken a look at bumpers as you sat in traffic, you know Americans are expressive people. For this, we can thank the First Amendment, which protects even […]
Archives for February 2018
By Zac Morgan
If you’ve ever scrolled through Facebook or Twitter, or taken a look at bumpers as you sat in traffic, you know Americans are expressive people. For this, we can thank the First Amendment, which protects even vulgar expression. Indeed, in 1971, the Supreme Court upheld the right of Paul Robert Cohen to wear his jacket, which urged sexual relations with the wartime draft, in a courthouse.
Today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a less salacious, but no less important, First Amendment case. Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky asks whether Americans may be barred from wearing “political apparel” when casting a ballot. This policy led to a voter being threatened with prosecution for the “crime” of wearing a nonpartisan t-shirt inspired by the Gadsden flag, the “Don’t Tread on Me” symbol flown by patriots during the American Revolution.
Certainly, if the First Amendment protects profane apparel in a courthouse, Americans ought have the right to wear our opinions at the moment we the people decide who should govern…
At an absolute minimum, as my organization, the Institute for Free Speech, urged in our amicus brief in this case, the Supreme Court should instruct state and local governments to find the middle ground: Only apparel expressly urging a vote for or against a specific candidate on that day’s ballot may be excluded. This line, called “express advocacy,” has been applied and policed in campaign finance law for a generation.
Timing of federal contribution limits restricts speech and favors some candidates over others, says Institute for Free Speech Alexandria, VA – The Institute for Free Speech today announced it has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling in Holmes v. Federal Election Commission by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. […]
Palm Beach Post: Lozman faces Riviera Beach in U.S. Supreme Court for rare second time (In the News)
By Jane Musgrave
On Tuesday, five years after the 56-year-old former U.S. Marine, commodities trader and self-made millionaire notched his first U.S. Supreme Court victory against the city, he will be back for round two…
Constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams, who helped the New York Times win the right to publish The Pentagon Papers over the objections of the Nixon Administration, has thrown his considerable legal weight behind Lozman and his legal team from Stanford University Law School.
“Arrests made in retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights are a particularly chilling form of governmental response to constitutionally protected but officially disfavored speech,” Abrams wrote on behalf of the Virginia-based Institute for Free Speech…
Abrams and some of the others who support Lozman suggest a compromise similar to that embraced by the 9th Circuit. While police or elected officials could be allowed to argue that they had probable cause to arrest someone, that would be only one of the factors that would be considered.
“If the presence of probable cause alone defeats the existence of a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim under all circumstances, arrests rooted in an effort to stifle protected speech will become judicially unscrutinized and undisturbed throughout the nation,” Abrams wrote.
Washington Post: West Virginians should reject a misguided call for less political speech (In the News)
By Thomas Wheatley
A 2013 study from the University of Massachusetts, for example, studied the negative effects of public disclosure laws on individual willingness to give and found startling results. “When some citizens believe that their contributions will be posted publicly on the Internet,” concluded the study, “they tend to cut back on donations or not give at all.” Individual citizens are especially cognizant of what the study calls “social influence theory,” and are vastly more likely to be fearful of public backlash in a way corporations are not. In West Virginia, even a $1 contribution is published online for all the world to see. In other words, enacting overbroad disclosure laws to diminish corporate influence in elections – as West Virginia has – may in fact aggravate the disparity…
Second, there’s little evidence that “getting the money out of politics” actually yields better government. Another 2013 study from the Institute for Free Speech, using data from the Pew Center on the States, found “no relationship between a state’s regulation of corporate or union contributions to candidates and the quality of management in a state.” In fact, of the 21 states that prohibited corporate contributions entirely, only three were considered “above average” in state management. Eight were deemed “below average.” Meanwhile, of the five highest-scoring states, three had no limit on election contributions by corporations.