A Teachable Moment for @alt_fec

The Twitter handle @alt_fec, which claims the mantle of “resistance” to the present administration, has tweeted to request our views on the First Amendment implications of a letter from a private attorney to a private publisher concerning Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.* While @alt_fec has seldom displayed much concern for the First […]

Filed Under: Blog, @alt_fec, Donald Trump, FEC, federal election commission, Fire and Fury, First Amendment, Libel, New York Times v. Sullivan, Steve Bannon

LifeZette: Did Lisa Bloom Break Campaign Finance Laws by Arranging Pay for Trump Accusers? (In the News)

By Kathryn Blackhurst
Former FEC Chairman Brad Smith pointed to specific requirements of what campaign regulation refers to as “express advocacy” as likely not met by the Bloom effort.
“An independent expenditure has to include express advocacy, per statute. So if the accusers specifically said something like ‘I hope that voters will reject Trump’ that might do it. But it might still be hard to show that that is what the payment was for,” said Smith, who is chairman and founder of the Institute for Free Speech.
“The payment, they would argue, was just to go public with their stories, not to specifically oppose the election of Trump. That was a voluntary comment by the speaker, on her own. No money spent, no violation,” he said.
Smith cautioned, however, that “you wouldn’t need express advocacy to violate the ‘electioneering communication’ rule, but that would require using the statements in paid tv/radio ads of at least $10,000, which I gather is clearly inapplicable here. If coordinated with the campaign, payments would be a contribution to the campaign.”

Filed Under: In the News, Quotes IFS

Observer: Federal Case Could Upend New Jersey’s Campaign Finance Law (In the News)

By Jeff Brindle
Laura Holmes and Paul Jost, a married couple from Florida, challenged a provision in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) that limits contributions by individuals to $2,700 in the primary and $2,700 in the general election…
Holmes and Jost, while not challenging contribution limits per se, maintain that it is a violation of their First Amendment rights to bar them from contributing $5,200, or two times $2,600, to a candidate in the general election…
Bradley Smith, a former FEC member and free speech advocate, said the election-cycle contribution split clearly favors incumbents, who often face little primary opposition and simply roll their primary contributions into their general election campaign kitties.
“Campaign finance laws often raise difficult questions about the intersection of free speech and elections, but not every case is a tough one. Some laws are just plain dumb and unfair, no matter what your views on campaign finance,” said Smith in an April 10, 2017, op-ed column in the Washington Examiner. His group, Institute for Free Speech, represents Holmes and Jost.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases, Quotes IFS

The Steve Gruber Show: Zac Morgan: No “reasonable expectation of privacy” from your phone’s location data (In the News)

Zac Morgan, is a staff attorney at the Institute for Free Speech and an Opinion contributor to USA Today. The government says you have no “reasonable expectation of privacy” from your phone’s location data. And the government believes that it should be able to get your location history from your phone provider on, more-or-less, its own say-so. 

Filed Under: Broadcast, Video, Audio, In the News

Urban Family Talk: Stacy on the Right (Audio) (In the News)

Institute for Free Speech Attorney Zac Morgan discusses the Fist Amendment implications of the Supreme Court case Carpenter v. United States (beginning at 19:00).

Filed Under: Broadcast, Video, Audio, In the News

NBC Chicago: Current and Former Lawmakers Ask High Court to Hear Blagojevich Case (In the News)

By Phil Rogers
Emphasizing they take no position on Blagojevich’s guilt or innocence, the lawmakers emphasize the need to clarify once and for all the vagueries of campaign finance law in the United States.
“This court’s guidance is needed to distinguish the lawful solicitation and donation of campaign contributions from criminal violations of federal extortion, bribery, and fraud laws,” the lawmakers wrote in the brief filed Monday, noting that the court’s landmark McCormick decision stated flatly that political candidates can’t “realistically avoid soliciting campaign funds from the very constituents whose interests they may later advance through the support of specific legislation.” …
In a second brief filed in support of Blagojevich getting his day before the high court, the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers agreed that the current rules surrounding campaign finance are confusing at best.
“A correct determination of what words and actions are legal and what are not legal is absolutely critical,” the defense lawyers wrote…
Two other groups also filed amicus briefs in support of the court taking Blagojevich’s case, the Institute for Free Speech, and the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law.

Filed Under: In the News

American Prospect: Internet Ad Rules Bring Together Strange Bedfellows (In the News)

By Eliza Newlin Carney
When the FEC moved unanimously this month to clear the way for a rulemaking that would require small, online political ads to include disclaimers saying who paid for them, GOP election lawyer Dan Backer raised the alarm that such rules “will do nothing but keep law-abiding Americans away from political speech.” When lawmakers on Capitol Hill introduced a bipartisan bill to expand disclosure for online campaign ads, Institute for Free Speech President David Keating warned that it “would shut off an indispensable outlet for small grassroots groups to get their message out.”
It’s the same line of attack that First Amendment champions on the right have deployed to tear down all but a few of the nation’s political money rules…
Conservatives object that new internet restrictions would block ordinary Americans and small, grassroots groups from speaking freely in politics. An analysis by the Institute for Free Speech even raises the specter that the Honest Ads Act, for one, would impose the heavy hand of government on individual websites and email communications.

Filed Under: In the News, Quotes IFS

Courthouse News Service: Voters Lose Protest of Campaign-Contribution Ceilings (In the News)

By Daniel W. Staples
Upholding contribution ceilings in federal election law, the en banc D.C. Circuit rejected claims Tuesday from Florida voters who wanted to forgo campaign donations in the primary season to double up in the general election.
In 2014, the election year that prompted the underlying challenge, federal base limits prevented any individual from contributing more than $2,600 to a candidate in each election for which the candidate was competing.
Primary and general elections are considered separate elections, however, so the same donor could contribute $2,600 to the same candidate for each contest.
Laura Holmes and Paul Jost, a married couple living in Florida, challenged the scheme as an unconstitutional bifurcation of what they construed as an overall $5,200 cap…
Allen Dickerson, an attorney for Holmes and Jost with the Institute for Free Speech, called the ruling a disappointment and said they might appeal.
“The FEC has never shown that restricting campaign contributions on the basis of the time of year they are given prevents corruption,” said Dickerson, who is legal director of the institute. “Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals deferred to Congress, and left intact a situation that is illogical and unfair to both candidates and donors.”

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

JURIST: Federal appeals court rejects challenge to campaign finance law (In the News)

By Jennifer Suder
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday rejected a challenge to a campaign finance law that set limits on federal donations to primary and general elections.
The law placed a per-election donation cap: $2,600 for primary elections and $2,600 for general elections.
A Florida couple, Laura Holmes and Paul Jost, brought an action against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in 2014, arguing that they should be able to donate $5,200 during the general election, rather than being forced to split the maximum donation between the primary and general elections. Further, they argued, if spending $5,200 over both elections does not raise undue prospect of corruption, then donating all of the money during the general election should similarly be permitted.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

WJXT News4JAX: Appeals court rejects finance challenge (In the News)

By News Service of Florida
In a case brought by a Florida couple, a federal appeals court Tuesday rejected a challenge to a campaign-finance law that places limits on contributions in primary and general elections.
Laura Holmes and Paul Jost, a married couple, each backed a congressional candidate in California and Iowa during the 2014 elections.
During that election cycle, contributors were limited to writing $2,600 checks to candidates in primary elections and $2,600 checks in general elections.
In a lawsuit filed against the Federal Election Commission, Holmes and Jost did not challenge the overall $5,200 contribution limit — but said they should have been able to write $5,200 checks to their candidates for the general election instead of splitting the amount between contributions for the primary and general elections.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

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