Preserving online speech freedom should be a priority for regulators Alexandria, VA – Institute for Free Speech President David Keating released the following statement today regarding the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning disclaimer mandates for online advertisements: “The FEC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is a good start, and we commend the commissioners for […]
Federal Election Commission member Ellen Weintraub and Adav Noti, a lead attorney in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, took part of a forum on Russian interference in U.S. elections. The two were joined by a group of attorneys, authors, and academics. Topics included the Trump presidential campaign, campaign finance ballot measures around the country, and the 2018 midterm elections.
This program was part of the the inaugural Unrig the System Summit at Tulane University in New Orleans. The non-profit organization known as Represent.us hosted the event.
[The panel includes Institute for Free Speech Senior Fellow Eric Wang.]
By Anne Blythe and Brian Murphy
The allegations from both cases raise questions about campaign finance law, and whether payments made by wealthy supporters to hide a candidate’s extramarital affair should be considered campaign contributions that not only went unreported but exceeded the maximum dollar amount allowed…
Brad Smith, the chairman and founder of the Institute For Free Speech who served on the Federal Elections Commission, said at the time of the Edwards trial that he did not think the payments made by the wealthy donors should be viewed as campaign funds, and had similar views about the Trump case from what details he knew.
“What we said then,” Smith said referring to the Edwards case, “was that generally speaking, not everything that benefits a a candidate is a campaign expense.”
Smith, a Republican, said one has to weigh whether the expense would have been made outside the realm of the campaign such as a “$400 haircut.”
“One of the things with the Trump campaign is I think you have to say that certainly it might have been done anyway,” Smith said. “I think it really can’t be viewed as a campaign finance.”
By Edith Roberts
In an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel, David Keating and Thomas Wheatley weigh in on Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida, in which the justices will decide whether the existence of probable cause defeats a retaliatory-arrest claim, arguing that “the court should consider the presence of probable cause holistically without automatically extinguishing a First Amendment claim.”
Center for Individual Freedom: Russian Indictments and Americans’ First Amendment Political Speech Rights (In the News)
Bradley A. Smith, Chairman and Founder of the Institute for Free Speech, discusses the Mueller indictments, campaign finance laws, and proposals to respond to foreign interference with broad-based restrictions on American online issue speech.
Bloomberg BNA (via Election Law Blog): Edwards Case Looms Over Payments to Women Alleging Trump Links (In the News)
By Ken Doyle
Bradley Smith, a former Republican commissioner on the FEC who now heads the nonprofit Institute for Free Speech, said in a phone interview that it would be “very difficult” to show the payments to women linked to Trump were related to the presidential campaign. Smith noted that Trump had a long history before his candidacy trying to shape his news coverage as a public figure.
Smith said it was likely the FEC would dismiss the Common Cause complaints based on responses from Cohen and others.
Adav Noti, a former FEC staff attorney now with the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, said the timing of payments to Clifford and McDougal raised serious legal questions. He added, however, that “we don’t know nearly enough facts” to determine whether the campaign finance law was violated.
Whether the FEC will investigate and determine those facts is doubtful, Noti said.
Washington Post: Provisions attached to budget bills could reshape campaign finance laws (In the News)
By Michelle Ye Hee Lee
The most significant and best-known proposal would repeal part of the Johnson Amendment, which limits political activity by tax-exempt churches and nonprofit groups…
“I think that many of the religious organizations make a good point that they should be able to endorse candidates from the pulpit,” said David Keating, president of the nonprofit Institute for Free Speech, which opposes limits on political speech and advertising…
Another budget rider, this one attached to the Senate version of the budget bill, would relax caps on the amount of money that candidates can spend in coordination with their parties for communications…
One provision in the House budget bill would prevent new rules requiring businesses seeking federal contracts to disclose their political spending.
It also continues two riders already written into existing law: One blocks the Securities and Exchange Commission from acting on proposed rules that would require publicly traded companies to disclose their political contributions to shareholders; another blocks the Internal Revenue Service from creating new standards for “dark money” groups, which are not required to disclose their donors or political spending.
The panel was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and was moderated by William Schambra of the Hudson Institute. Our featured panelists included Gara LaMarche of the Democracy Alliance, Abby Levine of Alliance for Justice, and David Keating of the Institute for Free Speech…
The panelists questioned how 501(c)(3) giving has changed since the controversial decision, and debated whether nonprofit organizations should be more active in politics or remain aloof from the broader political debate.
“Too many groups are self-censoring, sitting on the sidelines, and not talking about policy issues,” Levine said. “One of the bigger issues is that organizations do a lot less than they can and should be urged to do more.”
Keating commented on nonprofit organizations’ ability to produce solutions to policy problems before they arise that would be helpful in quickly solving those same problems in the future. He also questioned their efficiency in enacting instant change by suggesting that groups that “want to influence elections and campaigns” should “get in and do it directly,” rather than attempting to influence the political process through 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) organizations.
“Civic engagement of nonprofits in public concerns is a good thing,” LaMarche responded, and “you can do it without making nonprofits combatants in a political war.”
PDF available here The First Amendment protects speech from burdensome government regulation. Until the 1970s, federal law largely did not regulate either campaign speech or issue speech by advocacy groups. That changed with the adoption of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). The Act attempted to regulate any speech “relative to a clearly identified candidate.” […]
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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. […]