By Braden H. Boucek
This sign belonged to a Memphis-area gentleman, Bill Thomas, who was perfectly within his rights to have a sign on this location. He actually owned the property and the State specifically allows the construction of billboards on-premises. Everything about this sign was by the book. Except for what it said. This violation of free speech is why we joined a case to support the legal effort to protect Mr. Thomas’ first amendment right to celebrate holiday cheer…
In Bill’s case, his sign was illegal solely because what it said. The State allows only a limited number of messages to be available for display on-premises. Advertising a business located on-site, for instance, would be allowed. So if the sign had advertised a restaurant on the property and read “Eat at Bill’s,” or if it was a “For Sale” sign he would have been fine. But he can’t wish you a Merry Christmas on the same sign that he could have advertised tires.
This is just completely upside down. The government should be getting out of the business of preferring different types of speech. But it really makes no sense to crack down on speech that is non-commercial in nature. Other signs the State banned encouraged supporting American Olympic athletes, and another sign critical of state officials who were enforcing these laws. American flags and pumpkins shouldn’t be banned on any sign that could contain an advertisement.
By Braden H. Boucek
The Cato Institute and other conservative think tanks are supporting the legal attack on billboard law as unconstitutional infringement on free speech.
Cato, based in Washington, DC, filed an amicus brief on April 10 in a case called Thomas v. Schroer, which challenges Tennessee’s billboard controls.
“Tennessee’s statutory and regulatory framework for ‘billboards’ presents an irrational, unnecessary, and overly expansive restriction on the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and expression,” said Cato’s 21-page brief submitted to the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals…
The State of Tennessee defends its billboard law as a proper balance of regulation and respect for free speech. The US Department of Justice is supporting the state, along with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).
The plaintiff, William H. Thomas Jr, is represented by the Institute for Free Speech, based in Alexandria, VA.
Cato: Hey Baby, What’s Your On-Premises Sign? By Ilya Shapiro and Aaron Barnes Tennessee’s Billboard Regulation and Control Act of 1972 regulates roadside signs by imposing onerous restrictions as well as location and permit requirements. The statute also provides exemptions, particularly with regard to so-called “on-premises” signs. On-premises signs are those that either advertise activities that are […]
There were new developments in an investigation involving former Utah Attorney General John Swalllow and businessman Jeremy Johnson.
Friday, a federal judge struck down a regulation by the Federal Election Commission, dismissing the commission’s lawsuit against the two.
At issue was the FEC’s regulation that expands liability for contributions made through straw donors. A straw donor is a person who illegally uses another person’s money to make a political contribution in their own name.
Salt Lake Tribune: A federal judge tosses the final case against John Swallow, ending years of court disputes against the former Utah attorney general (In the News)
By Stephen Hunt and Tiffany Caldwell
Benson wrote in his ruling that the case against Swallow “only charges him with secondary liability and that Congress clearly did not include a ban against secondary actors in the [Federal Election Campaign] Act.”
The judge said the FEC “went too far” when it imposed liability under the Federal Election Campaign Act on secondary actors – “exceeding its authority to write regulations and improperly intruding into the realm of law-making that is the exclusive province of Congress.” …
Benson “deserves a lot of credit for having the courage to strike down what he viewed as an unconstitutional regulation,” Swallow said. “That’s very rare, when judges do that.”
Allen Dickerson, one of Swallow’s attorneys and the legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, said in a Friday email: “The Federal Election Commission’s brazen attempt to supplant Congress was rightly rejected by the court. Unelected commissioners cannot act outside of the law to punish conduct they deem inappropriate.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for separation of powers and secures the rights of all Americans to discuss and participate in campaign fundraising.”
U.S. News & World Report: Lawsuit Dismissal Ends Prosecution of Former Utah AG Swallow (In the News)
By Ken Ritter and Lindsay Whitehurst, Associated Press
“This marks the last action by the government against me and we have won at every turn,” Swallow said in an email hailing U.S. District Judge Dee Benson’s 10-page decision…
Benson ruled that Congress makes election laws, and that the election commission “went too far” in adopting rules imposing liability on “secondary actors” making campaign contributions.
The judge compared the allegations to a basketball player earning an “assist” for passing to another player who makes a basket, although “the player who made the assist cannot fairly be considered to be the person who made the basket.” …
Commission attorney Sana Chaudhry argued last month that the campaign limit rule was part of the FEC’s broad authority to regulate elections.
Allen Dickerson, legal director of the Virginia-based Institute for Free Speech, said Friday, that, “unelected commissioners” can’t supplant Congress to punish conduct they deem inappropriate…
The FEC action could have left Swallow facing thousands of dollars in fines.
By Dennis Romboy
Attorney Allen Dickerson contended the law is silent on secondary liability – the practice of holding one party legally responsible for helping another – for the type of campaign finance violation Swallow allegedly committed.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson agreed…
It is illegal under federal law for a person to donate funds to a federal candidate through another person or allow their name be used to contribute to a candidate. It also is against the law for a candidate to accept a contribution made in the name of another person.
The law applies to only three types of people, and Swallow was not one them, Dickerson argued.
“The FEC’s authority exists no further than the boundaries of the law it was created to enforce,” Benson wrote in a 10-page decision…
Benson struck the rule from the code of federal regulations and barred the FEC from enforcing it.
Dickerson said Benson rightly rejected the FEC’s “brazen” attempt to supplant federal law.
“Unelected commissioners cannot act outside of the law to punish conduct they deem inappropriate,” he said, adding the ruling secures the rights of all Americans to discuss and participate in campaign fundraising.
Fox 13 Salt Lake City: Judge tosses lawsuit against ex-Utah AG John Swallow over campaign donations (In the News)
By Ben Winslow
Judge Benson ruled the FEC exceeded its authority to go after “secondary actors” and struck down the lawsuit.
“The FEC’s authority exists no further than the boundaries of the law it was created to enforce,” he wrote.
In a statement to FOX 13, Swallow said, “It’s finally, really Over, for sure, we think.”
“It’s a great day for the rule of law, the First Amendment, and the checks and balances established by our Constitution,” Swallow said in the prepared statement. “It’s not only a win, but an emphatic exposure and rejection of government tactics to expand power by deceit.”
By Associated Press
Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow has asked a judge to dismiss a federal lawsuit accusing him and an imprisoned businessman of illegally funneling donations to the campaigns of Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and others.
Swallow’s lawyers also asked a federal judge Tuesday in Salt Lake City to invalidate the rule he’s accused of breaking, arguing it violates free speech.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson had not yet ruled on the requests.
The Federal Election Commission sued Swallow and businessman Jeremy Johnson, alleging the former attorney general helped Johnson skirt federal laws by giving money to friends and employees who then donated $170,000 to political campaigns…
Allen Dickerson, a lawyer with the Virginia-based Institute for Free Speech, argued that the election rule doesn’t allow someone to be held legally responsible for helping another person break laws.
FEC attorney Sana Chaudhry disagreed, saying the rule is part of the FEC’s broad authority to regulate elections…
The lawsuit could leave Johnson and Swallow facing thousands of dollars in fines if the judge sides with the FEC.
By Dennis Romboy
John Swallow wants a federal judge to not only dismiss the Federal Election Commission complaint against him but invalidate the campaign finance rule he allegedly violated.
Allen Dickerson, a lawyer for the former Utah attorney general, argued Tuesday in U.S. District Court that the process the FEC used to come up with the regulation was “deeply flawed.” …
Dickerson said the law is silent on secondary liability – the practice of holding one party legally responsible for helping another – for the type of campaign finance violation Swallow allegedly committed.
“There is none,” he said.
Benson said he was having a problem with the FEC argument that someone could assist another person in making a campaign contribution.
“I just don’t see it,” he said. “How does more than one person make a contribution? Either you make a contribution to a candidate or you don’t.”
Chaudhry asked Benson to refer the regulation back to the FEC rather than remove it from the books if he finds it invalid. The judge did not issue a ruling Tuesday.
Swallow, who is represented by the Institute for Free Speech based in Washington, D.C., did not attend the hearing.