By David Keating and Paul Jossey
Various interests have seized on Russian chicanery to push “reforms” lacking priority in less neurotic times. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter seeking new rules for online ads. The resulting bill would burden internet speech with suffocating rules, even possibly banning some forms of online speech. Instead of hitting the Russians, the bill instead targets American speech, press and assembly rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. In short, despite the dearth of candidate references in the Russian ads, there is already a rush to chill the world’s most dynamic speech forum…
In the rush to respond, we have to remember the most important values, which are our rights to freely speak, publish, listen, read and watch. That’s the real risk of an irrational response, whether the threats come from new laws or more speech cops at Facebook…
The government should focus on ensuring that our voting machinery is safe from foreign hackers. Protection is also needed to prevent foreign agents from stealing internal candidate campaign communications. But when the issue is speech, we must exercise great caution lest zeal to curb foreign influence instead damages our own free speech rights.
By David Keating and Paul Jossey
PDF of letter available here The Honorable Mitch McConnell The Honorable Paul Ryan Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, The Institute for Free Speech writes in support of repeal of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Form 990, Schedule B requirement. Eliminating this mandate is a sensible and much-needed policy that would end the statutory […]
Imagine a special tax was levied on newspapers to fund vouchers that people could use to buy Fox News Channel subscriptions. Would that impact free-press rights?
The new lawsuit challenging Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” [“Suit challenges city vouchers for campaign contributions,” NWThursday, June 29] makes such hypotheticals worth pondering.
The article on the lawsuit claims that “Under the complaint’s rationale, virtually any public financing of campaigns that relies on tax revenue would be impermissible.”
But the lawsuit makes a more nuanced argument. The funding mechanism for this voucher program is unusual – a special property tax was levied to pay for it. The law does not allow that tax to be used for any other purpose.
The voucher law allows the program to be funded from general city funds. But that option is not being used. The lawsuit hasn’t challenged the use of general funds.
There are important First Amendment questions raised by the poorly drafted voucher law. Governments shouldn’t pass a special tax on a few to fund speech some oppose.
Hopefully, the court will agree.
By David Keating
Perhaps you want to limit the right of elected officials, like Eric Greitens, to raise money for advocacy groups. If so, tread carefully. And certainly don’t endorse new laws ensnaring groups independent of elected officials from forming and speaking out on public policy while ensuring their members keep their privacy.
In supporting privacy for these groups, the group I run does not stand alone. We stand with the Supreme Court. In NAACP v. Alabama, the court ruled that government can’t force nonprofits to turn over their membership lists. The justices warned that such disclosure “may constitute as effective a restraint on freedom of association as (other) forms of governmental action.”
In Talley v. California, the high court said disclosure requirements “would tend to restrict freedom to distribute information and thereby freedom of expression … fear of reprisal might deter peaceful discussions of public matters of importance.”
Such privacy rights related to speech also protect an independent media. Some elected officials want new laws to punish the press for publishing leaks or quoting anonymous sources. The media, including the Post-Dispatch, need to realize that the First Amendment gives it no more rights than citizens who form groups. Attacking citizen rights to free speech undermines the media’s rights to the same.
By David Keating & Luke Wachob
Democrats and progressives are losing their minds over President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. One left-wing advocacy group released a video titled “3 Reasons to Fear Judge Gorsuch.” Number one? According to them, if Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court, “our elections could be completely handed over to the powerful and the wealthy.”
That ludicrous statement refers to Gorsuch’s concurring opinion in Riddle v. Hickenlooper, a campaign finance case. Riddle challenged Colorado’s contribution limit law as discriminatory.
Was it ever! It allowed major party candidates to raise twice as much money as minor party candidates and independents. Progressives love to say “money isn’t speech,” but Riddle wasn’t about that. It was about equality…
Should progressives worry that Gorsuch may rule against them on campaign finance cases? Probably, given the type of restrictions they support on your free speech.
The silly Colorado law struck down by the court – they wrote it! Common Cause and like-minded groups seeking speech limits put it on the ballot. The goal? Getting money out of politics, of course.
By David Keating
Despite some hysterical reactions, the truth is that, as it stands, the Johnson Amendment is horribly written. It chills vital speech in violation of the First Amendment. Congress should repeal it, and pass a clear and sensible provision in its place.
The amendment was inserted into the law by a powerful senator – Lyndon Baines Johnson, who later became president. Johnson’s amendment aimed to silence groups he didn’t like. Today, the potential IRS penalty for even a minor violation of the amendment is a death sentence for any group – a complete loss of its tax exemption. That’s absurd…
No one wants churches or charities to become super PACs blessed with tax-deductible donations. That’s not what’s going to happen, and I very much doubt President Trump wants that outcome. Evangelical groups that sparked Trump’s concerns have no interest in this state of affairs either.
But do we want a law that places the IRS in a position to investigate what a preacher said from the pulpit the Sunday before Election Day?
Hon. Neil Gorsuch United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (2006-Present) This post covers two First Amendment retaliation cases by Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch. Judge Gorsuch writes one opinion and joins another in cases constrained by precedent. Casey v. West Las Vegas Ind. School Dist., 473 F. 3d 1323 (10th Cir. […]
Hon. Neil Gorsuch United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (2006-Present) This post reviews an opinion Judge Gorsuch joined that raised constitutional questions about the vagueness of an as-applied challenge to a disorderly conduct ordinance. Galbreath v. City of Oklahoma City, (10th Cir. 2014) A high-heeled man with a cane performing ballet routines […]
Hon. Neil Gorsuch United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (2006-Present) This post reviews Judge Gorsuch’s dissent in a Fourth Amendment warrantless search case. Gorsuch powerfully and colorfully argues public officers have no power to intrude upon a house and its curtilage (appendages such as porch and the immediate area) when the owner […]
Hon. Neil Gorsuch United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (2006-Present) This post reviews a case in which Judge Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion concerning jurisdictional issues with strong First Amendment implications. The opinion shows how he carefully interprets the law, free of any bias on this controversial issue. Hill v. Kemp, 478 […]