By A. Barton Hinkle
When conservative or libertarian groups support a Republican candidate, it’s proof that the candidate is “in the pocket of” powerful and nefarious interests who have “bought and paid for” her support. When liberal or progressive groups contribute to a Democratic candidate, it’s proof that the candidate’s principled stand on important issues has earned the support of ordinary people who share his values…
For liberals and progressives, Northam did the right thing on Tuesday: He won. Which means all the money he spent, and all the money spent by others to elect him, is nothing to get upset about. As Bradley Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission who now runs the Institute for Free Speech, wrote several years ago: “Nobody on the left really believes what they always say about campaign contributions and spending. … The ‘reformers’ do not believe money is corrupting. Rather, they believe that their political opponents are corrupt.”
And big money in politics poses no threat to democracy – so long as the right team wins.
By A. Barton Hinkle
By Bradley A. Smith
Sen. Tom Udall (D., N.M.) tweeted back that “POTUS is again openly suggesting an abuse of power.” Yet Mr. Udall has repeatedly sponsored a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to regulate political speech. He reintroduced it this year, making clear he wanted to regulate speech by “Wall Street” and “corporations.” …
So why not revoke the licenses of stations that are unfair or inaccurate in their coverage? Many Trump critics are demanding that Facebook and Twitter act to eliminate “fake news” online. Why then tolerate biased reporting from broadcasters?
The answer is that government can’t be trusted to decide which reporting counts as fake news. After all, one man’s “distortion” is another’s “straight talk.” While Mr. Udall thinks corporations are too powerful, others might say labor unions. The temptation will be to silence opponents. What the government is most likely to crack down on is news that’s critical of the government.
That’s why we have a First Amendment. Those who pine for more regulation of campaign speech should take this “teachable moment” to ponder two questions: Does free speech apply to all Americans, or only to the favored few calling themselves “the press?” And are political opponents the only ones who cannot be trusted with the power to censor critics?
Morning Consult: FEC Commissioner Says Agency Limited in Ability to Regulate Online Political Ads (In the News)
By Edward Graham
Bradley Smith, a former Republican FEC commissioner from 2000 to 2005 and the chairman and founder of the Institute for Free Speech, agreed that the agency is limited in the steps it could take to address online ads…
“I think [the FEC is] very limited on what they can do, and this is one of the points too when we talk about $100,000 in advertising – a lot of that is stuff that would not actually be subject to FEC regulation, because it was done outside the window of electioneering communication,” Smith said in a Wednesday phone interview. “It’s not express advocacy, so, again, there would be big limits on what the FEC could require there.”
Smith called the Honest Ads Act “sort of your classic overreaction” to reports that Russian-linked groups spent approximately $100,000 on political ads on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election cycle, saying that the amount spent was just a drop in the bucket compared to total political spending.
“People don’t like the idea, understandably so, that Russians are trying to meddle in our elections or turn us against each other,” Smith said. “It just seems odd that the result is, now that we know that, we’re nonetheless letting ourselves turn against each other and starting to regulate our freedoms away and so on. It’s just not an appropriate response.”
By Jennifer Smola
In most debates involving First Amendment matters on campus, administrators say they are weighing free speech rights versus campus safety. And they’re arriving at sometimes differing conclusions. The University of Cincinnati and Ohio State each received requests and subsequent legal threats to let Spencer speak on campus. While Ohio State repeatedly denied the request and is now facing a federal lawsuit, Cincinnati said it would “uphold the First Amendment and allow Richard Spencer to speak on campus.” …
The only legal argument Ohio State might be able to present is that Spencer’s speech incites violence, and therefore is not protected by the First Amendment, said Tokaji and Capital University Law School professor Bradley A. Smith.
“I don’t think the school could say, ‘We don’t like what Richard Spencer stands for,'” said Smith, chairman and co-founder of the Institute for Free Speech in Alexandria, Virginia. “But they could say ‘we’re not concerned about Richard Spencer coming here per se, we’re concerned that the things he will say … would constitute fighting words that would lead to imminent violence.'”
That still could be difficult to prove, Smith and Tokaji agreed. It’s not enough that Spencer’s words might upset people, they said. Ohio State would have to prove that he specifically says things that cause violence – such as urging his listeners to burn down a building, for example.
Bradley A. Smith, Chairman and Founder of the Institute for Free Speech and Former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, discusses the so-called “Honest Ads Act,” how the proposed legislation would impose more burdens on Americans’ free speech rights, and the problems with extending the existing “electioneering communication” FEC disclaimer language to social media ads.
By Kenneth P. Doyle
In addition to the affected companies, other critics of campaign finance regulation have maintained that the FEC should be cautious about regulating political speech on the internet. The Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit that is critical of regulation, issued a statement Oct. 19 criticizing the new bill announced by Klobuchar, Warner and McCain and complaining that a full text of the bill hadn’t yet been released.
“Though purporting to regulate Russia, in fact this regulates Americans,” said Bradley Smith, the center’s chairman and a former Republican FEC commissioner. “By imposing more broad burdens on Americans’ speech rights rather than targeting foreign interests interfering with our elections, their bill would make America look a little bit more like Russia.”
In the same statement, Eric Wang, a CCP senior fellow, said that, rather than regulating online political ads, lawmakers should look at strengthening the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), “which is appropriately limited to the type of foreign political activity that Russia engaged in, and amending that law if necessary.”
Bradley Smith, a professor at Capital University Law School and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, discusses a new bipartisan plan in the Senate to regulate online advertising after foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. election. He speaks with June Grasso on Bloomberg Radio’s Bloomberg Law.
Bradley Smith, a professor at Capital University Law School and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, and Bradley Moss, a partner at Mark Zaid Plc, discuss a new bipartisan plan in the Senate to regulate online advertising after foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. They speak with Bloomberg’s June Grasso and Michael Best on Bloomberg Radio’s Bloomberg Law.
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit: Public Confidence in the Election Process (Video)
Legal challenges involving political campaigns or elections present some of the most difficult, high-profile, and time-sensitive matters to come before federal courts. They also may test the bounds of judicial independence and the appearance of impartiality. Their consequences are often far-reaching. A panel of three distinguished election law experts will participate in a conversation to help navigate through this thicket. They will discuss perennial issues arising in election law, such as the Voting Rights Act, redistricting, and the regulation of money in politics. They also will tackle several more recent hot topics, including voter fraud, voter suppression and protection, the regulation of micro-targeting, the Purcell principle (relating to court-ordered changes shortly before an election), the Electoral College, faithless electors, and foreign interference with U.S. elections.
By Bradley A. Smith
Republicans on Capitol Hill are outraged by the announcement that the Department of Justice would stick with the Obama administration decision not to prosecute Lois Lerner…
But congressional Republicans always set the bar both too high and too low when it came to the IRS’s actions. They set it too high in that they immediately declared that the scandal constituted criminal wrongdoing and too low by suggesting that the scandal hinged on a finding of criminal wrongdoing. The real problem was never one of a few rogue IRS employees engaging in criminality. Rather, the IRS scandal was about abuse of power by elected officials, who consciously sought to weaponize the IRS against their political adversaries…
In the end, Lerner is something of a sideshow. The real problems are first, the president and leaders in Congress should not use their power to pressure the bureaucracy to do their partisan bidding, and second, if you give government the tools to regulate political speech, the government will weaponize them for partisan gain by the party in power. No “criminal” behavior is necessary. That, and not the tea party, is what threatened democracy then and now. Too bad that’s not the IRS scandal Congress chose to focus on.