Washington Examiner: Facebook dishonestly pushes the Honest Ads Act (In the News)

By Luke Wachob
For Facebook, government regulation of political and issue ads on its platform is the lesser of two evils. Russian interference in the 2016 election, which involved the purchasing of politically-charged Facebook ads, has sparked calls for government to regulate the social media giant. It has also raised awareness of the way Facebook’s business model relies on collecting data on its users and allowing advertisers to target users with messages designed to appeal to their interests.
Public unease with this aspect of Facebook’s business could be a major problem for the company. It’s therefore in Facebook’s interest to do whatever it can to shift the conversation away from its user privacy protections – or lack thereof. The company’s first reaction to the Russia controversy, which was simply to deny that any problem existed with the platform, failed to persuade. So now Facebook is on to plan B: support some dumb legislation and self-censor until the politicians get off its back.
Enter the Honest Ads Act. Notably, prior to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s endorsement of the bill in April, the Honest Ads Act had been languishing in Congress. That neglect was for good reason. Drafted in a rush to capitalize on media coverage of Russian interference, the Honest Ads Act fails to provide real solutions to foreign meddling. Compared to the more targeted approach pursued in other proposals, the Honest Ads Act would indiscriminately increase regulation for all online political advertising…
Online speech has long been regulated with a light touch out of a bipartisan recognition that the Internet is an empowering and diversifying medium capable of uplifting marginalized voices. Regulating Internet ads like expensive television and radio ads breaks with that tradition and recasts the Internet’s ability to accelerate social change as a bug rather than a feature.

Filed Under: In the News, Luke Wachob, Published Articles

Journal Inquirer: Connecticut among worst states in free speech index (In the News)

By Luke Wachob and Alex Baiocco
In a new Free Speech Index on political giving, Connecticut, along with 10 other states, receives an ‘F’ grade.
Connecticut’s limits are so low that individuals can give no more than $250 per election to a candidate for the House of Representatives. The state doesn’t adjust its limits for inflation either, meaning a citizen’s ability to support candidates will continue to decline. And while Connecticut has a program that doles out taxpayer dollars to campaigns in the hopes of bolstering candidates, these programs are easily gamed by savvy political actors and do little to change the makeup of legislatures or Connecticut legislators’ voting behavior.
The problems don’t end there. The state limits individual giving to political committees to $750 per year, and also limits the ability of groups and parties to support candidates.
In all the debate over what can go wrong when people give money to candidates, we rarely consider the benefits. Making a donation to a candidate or group with shared beliefs is one of the simplest and most effective ways for Americans to make their voice heard. These contributions fund campaign spending that raises awareness and interest in elections, especially among those least interested in government.
Contribution limits stand in the way of this process. They hinder candidates trying to spread their message and make it harder for voters to learn about the choices they’ll be asked to make on Election Day.
Perhaps most disappointing of all, they hobble political newcomers trying to shake up the system.

Filed Under: Alex Baiocco, In the News, Luke Wachob, Published Articles

Debunking Three Myths about the “Honest Ads Act”

PDF available here The deceptively-named “Honest Ads Act” is a proposal in Congress that would increase regulations for paid political and issue advertising on the Internet – including communications by organizations engaged in nonpartisan voter education, registration, and get out the vote efforts. In order to run such ads, groups would be forced to comply […]

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Federal, Disclosure Handouts, Federal, disclaimers, Foreign Influence, Honest Ads Act, Internet Speech Regulation, Issue Advocacy, Russia

Dark Money: The Courts Awaken

“This is like the Death Star. In Star Wars, they didn’t go fight the evil empire on every single planet. They went after the Death Star, and once they won the Death Star, everything else moved, you know, in a better direction.” That was how Senator Sheldon Whitehouse explained the importance of eliminating so-called “dark […]

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Federal, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Center for American Progress, Donor Privacy, Nonprofit Advocacy, Privacy, sheldon whitehouse

American Thinker: Is Your State Restricting Your Ability to Support Candidates? (In the News)

By Luke Wachob
A new report by the Institute for Free Speech grades the states on political giving freedom and offers the clearest picture to date of how states limit contributions to candidates, political parties, and political action committees. These limits make life difficult for upstart challengers and others who lack a pre-existing base of financial support. But exactly how cumbersome they are varies tremendously from state to state.
Consider a candidate for the Colorado General Assembly. Despite the fact that many of these candidates will have to campaign in the expensive Denver media market, they can accept no more than $200 per election from individuals. In addition, corporations and labor unions are prohibited from giving any money to candidates. Cross the border in neighboring Nebraska, and it’s a totally different story. The Cornhusker State has no contribution limits at all, allowing individuals, groups, businesses, and unions to donate as they please.
The pattern repeats across the country. One state will impose low limits across the board, while a neighboring state has no limits whatsoever, and yet another has a mix of moderate limits on some kinds of giving. So it is that a candidate in Virginia faces no limits on contributions from individuals, while a candidate in West Virginia is limited to $1,000 per donor. A candidate for the South Dakota House of Representatives can also accept no more than $1,000 per individual, while a candidate in North Dakota can accept unlimited amounts, just like in Virginia.

Filed Under: In the News, Luke Wachob, Published Articles

Pueblo Chieftain: Colorado among 5 worst states in free speech index (In the News)

By Luke Wachob and Alex Baiocco
Colorado earns the worst grade in the nation for limits on individuals. Only one state has lower limits on the amount individuals can contribute to legislative candidates and only Alaska has lower limits on what contributors can give to political committees. Individuals in Colorado can give only $200 per election to candidates for the state Senate and state House of Representatives and the state imposes a limit of $575 per cycle on individual giving to political committees. These excessively low limits undoubtedly stifle important speech about candidates and elections in the Centennial State.
In all the debate over what can go wrong when people give money to candidates, we rarely stop to consider the benefits. Making a donation to a candidate or group with shared beliefs is one of the simplest and most effective ways for Americans to make their voices heard. These contributions fund campaign spending that raises awareness and interest in elections, especially among those least interested in government.
Contribution limits stand in the way of this process. They hinder candidates trying to spread their messages and make it harder for voters to learn about the choices they’ll be asked to make on Election Day. Perhaps most disappointing of all, they hobble political newcomers trying to shake up the system.

Filed Under: Alex Baiocco, In the News, Luke Wachob, Published Articles

First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti: Protecting the Right to Hear Others

PDF available here “The inherent worth of the speech in terms of its capacity for informing the public does not depend upon the identity of its source, whether corporation, association, union, or individual.” – First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 777 (1978) Can the government silence speech about an election simply […]

Filed Under: Blog, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, First Amendment, Issues, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Research, Ballot Issue Advocacy, corporate speech, First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, Supreme Court, First Amendment, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Massachusetts

Juneau Empire: Alaska among three worst states in nation in free speech index (In the News)

By Luke Wachob and Alex Baiocco
In a new Free Speech Index on political giving, Alaska, along with 10 other states, receives an ‘F’ grade.
In fact, Alaska’s contribution limits are so low that they are currently being challenged in federal court as an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech and association. Individuals in Alaska are prohibited from giving more than $500 per election cycle to candidates, and the state imposes the same low limit on individual contributions to political committees. And whereas a majority of states place no limit on individual giving to parties, Alaska limits both the amount individuals can give to parties and the amount of support parties can provide to a candidate. On top of all this, Alaska’s limits aren’t adjusted for inflation, meaning a citizen’s ability to support candidates will continually decline.

Filed Under: Alex Baiocco, In the News, Luke Wachob, Published Articles

Huntington Herald-Dispatch: West Virginia ranks poorly in ‘Free Speech Index’ (In the News)

By Luke Wachob and Alex Baiocco
In a new Free Speech Index on political giving, West Virginia, along with 10 other states, receives an “F” grade.
The Mountain State is arguably the worst state in the country for free political speech. Only Kentucky scores worse in the Free Speech Index, and Kentucky’s limits are actually higher than West Virginia’s in a few areas. West Virginia avoids last place because its population is less than half of Kentucky’s, reducing the amount of funding necessary to bring a candidate’s message to voters.
In West Virginia, individuals can give only $1,000 to candidates, parties and political committees per election. The same $1,000 per election limit exists on contributions from parties to candidates. This means parties are doubly restricted, facing limits both on what they can receive from individuals and on the amount of meaningful support they can provide for their candidates. On top of all this, West Virginia doesn’t adjust its limits for inflation, meaning a citizen’s ability to support their preferred candidates will continue to decline.

Filed Under: Alex Baiocco, In the News, Luke Wachob, Published Articles

Baltimore Sun: How Maryland’s tough campaign finance laws protect incumbents (In the News)

By Luke Wachob and Alex Baiocco
In a new Free Speech Index on political giving, Maryland, along with 10 other states, receives an “F” grade.
Maryland’s failing grade is due largely to the state’s restrictions on political parties. A majority of states place no limit on individual giving to parties, but Maryland limits both the amount individuals can give to parties and the amount of support parties can provide to their candidates, effectively doubly restricting free speech and association. Despite increasing limits for individuals in 2013, Maryland still has some of the lowest in the country.
Maryland is also one of only a few states with a four-year election cycle, meaning donors can give the maximum amount less often than in the vast majority of states. On top of all this, these limits aren’t adjusted for inflation, meaning a citizen’s ability to support candidates will decline each election cycle.
Maryland has tried to bolster campaigns for governor by offering taxpayer funds to candidates, and a few Maryland counties are also experimenting (or may soon) with taxpayer funding of campaigns. These programs impose additional restrictions on a candidate’s fundraising and spending, but in return they allow candidates to receive government funding…
However, the experience of other states and cities shows that these programs are easily gamed by savvy political actors seeking to bilk the system. 

Filed Under: Alex Baiocco, In the News, Luke Wachob, Published Articles

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