By Ronald K.L. Collins
The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights, announced today its new name, the Institute for Free Speech…
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will hailed CCP as the “gold standard” in advocacy work. But despite its success, CCP’s name often confused people about its work and objectives. The name Institute for Free Speech will clearly convey the group’s mission, to longtime supporters and newcomers alike.
Concurring Opinions: FAN 167.1 (First Amendment News) Center for Competitive Politics Renamed Institute for Free Speech (In the News)
By Ronald K.L. Collins
Republican National Lawyers Association: Testimony to House Oversight Committee on Threat to Free Speech from Online Ad Regulation (In the News)
By Lisa Dixon
Yesterday, Allen Dickerson of the Center for Competitive Politics (as of today, now called the Institute for Free Speech) testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Information Technology on the dangers posed to free speech by proposals to regulate internet advertisements…
Mr. Dickerson points out the current proposals are impractical and would expand the definition of electioneering communications to include genuine issue speech…
In the end, Mr. Dickerson cautions against a broad regulatory approach that may or may not actually prevent foreign advertising (some of which already prohibited by law) but would certainly infringe on Americans’ important rights of political speech online…
Mr. Dickerson’s entire testimony is well worth reading. A point that he makes throughout is worth remembering: the internet allows small, grassroots organizations and individuals to speak (i.e., advertise their message) in a way that is unprecedented.
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.”
San Antonio Express-News: Hearing reveals rocky path to regulating online political ads (In the News)
By Bill Lambrecht
With the specter of Russians manipulating American public opinion hanging over Capitol Hill, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd convened a panel of experts Tuesday whose testimony pointed to a rocky path for legislation aimed at preventing foreign interference in future elections…
Newly introduced legislation in both the Senate and House would make significant changes by requiring Facebook, Twitter and other large tech companies to gather information on the sponsor of ads and make it publicly available along with the ads themselves…
“I think some of the things they’re talking about already are being done in existing law,” said Hurd, who suggested that a better approach might be tightening the Foreign Agent Registration Act and existing federal rules…
Allen Dickerson, of the Center for Competitive Politics – an advocacy group that says its mission is protecting the First Amendment – told committee members that legislation “will drive out the poorest and least-sophisticated online speakers.”
“The blossoming of online speech is delicate and great caution must be taken in burdening the rights of American speakers,” he said.
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.
Deseret News: New John Swallow defense team asks judge to toss FEC complaint against him (In the News)
By Dennis Romboy
Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow has mobilized a free-speech rights group and a former Federal Election Commission chairman to defend him against alleged election law violations.
Lawyers for the Center for Competitive Politics and ex-FEC Chairman Scott Thomas, all based in Washington, D.C., have asked a federal judge to dismiss the complaint against Swallow.
“The FEC’s pursuit of Mr. Swallow is a clear overreach of the agency’s constitutional authority, made especially dangerous by the fact that it concerns his speech rather than his actions,” Allen Dickerson, the center’s legal director, said in a statement.
Swallow broke no law, and the regulation cited in the complaint is illegal and violates the First Amendment, according to the filing in U.S. District Court.
Salt Lake Tribune: Swallow asks judge to toss FEC lawsuit, says it violates his right to free speech (In the News)
By Jennifer Dobner
Swallow’s attorneys argue that the FEC has never accused the former GOP officeholder of doing anything more than giving Johnson advice – an act they say he’s now being illegally prosecuted for under a quietly adopted “secondary liability” rule that holds one person legally responsible for helping another.
It’s a broad interpretation of election law, Swallow’s lawyers from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) contend, that has a chilling effect on free speech.
“This means speakers like Mr. Swallow must be silent or edit their speech to avoid tripping over an amorphous line,” the motion states. “The First Amendment does not permit such unbounded regulations.”…
Even if the FEC could make a sound argument for its rule – one reportedly based on a judicial decision – the agency failed to inform campaign practitioners of its intentions or reasoning when it adopted the rule creating a new class of liability, the motion adds.
“In other words, the FEC pulled a switcheroo,” Swallow’s attorneys wrote, arguing that the court should dismiss the case and toss out the FEC’s “misguided regulation.”
Washington Examiner: McCain joins Dems to regulate Drudge, Google, Facebook political ads (In the News)
By Paul Bedard
The Center or Competitive Politics, for example, “Though purporting to regulate Russia, in fact this regulates Americans. 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.”
Center President David Keating said the $500 threshold could prompt websites to set minimum spending on ads much higher to pay for the new manpower they’d need to police ads. And that, he said, could kill small grassroots advocacy.
He also questioned the vague language that ads can’t be “purchased by a foreign national, directly or indirectly.” He said, “We don’t know what that means, but we would not be surprised to see groups opposed to free speech claim that such ads can’t be purchased by any publicly traded company as such companies have many, but an unknown number, of foreign owners.”…
Elections lawyer Eric Wang, with Wiley Rein in Washington explained to Secrets the concerns many have with the legislation.
First, he said, it is way too broad. “The Klobuchar-Warner-McCain bill purports to address a legitimate problem, but its means are misguided. Instead of specifically regulating Internet ads by foreign interests, the bill would regulate all speakers – the vast majority of whom are Americans.”
By Leonid Bershidsky
The Honest Ads Act, introduced on Thursday by Senators Mark Warner, Amy Klobuchar and John McCain to regulate political advertising on social networks and on the internet in general, would increase the regulatory burden on companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google. But it wouldn’t stop Russian troll farms or any other foreign actors from continuing to use them to push politicized messages to U.S. audiences. Totally different measures would be necessary if that were indeed the goal.
Broadly, what the act does is expand the definition of “electioneering communications” to cover not just traditional media like print publications, television, radio and direct mail, but also all public forms of digital communication. The idea is to make online platforms store all the political ads — both those that support specific candidates and those dealing with issues of national importance…
As some critics immediately noted, keeping an archive of every promoted tweet or Facebook post so that the public could peruse them would be a mammoth task. Communication researchers, of course, would be grateful to legislators for such a generous gift, but the companies would face lots of extra work without really advancing the legislation’s primary goal — to make political advertising on digital platforms more transparent.
Wall Street Journal: Proposed ‘Honest Ads Act’ Seeks More Disclosure About Online Political Ads (In the News)
By Byron Tau
In a press conference Thursday, Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Mark Warner of Virginia unveiled the Honest Ads Act…
Reps. Derek Kilmer (D., Wash.) and Mike Coffman (R., Colo.) have introduced similar legislation in the House.
The bill still faces an uncertain path through Congress. Many GOP lawmakers have balked at Democratic proposals to curb the flow of money in the political process, with many arguing that such spending is protected by the Constitution’s guarantees of free speech. Ms. Klobuchar hoped that it could be attached to one of the must-pass national security related bills that Congress periodically considers…
David Keating, the president of the Center for Competitive Politics, said the new proposal leaves “many unanswered questions.”
“One thing is clear-it won’t do anything to the Russians, but will certainly hit Americans who want to exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Mr. Keating, whose group argues that political spending is a form of free speech and opposes greater restrictions on money in politics.
Mr. Keating said he was concerned that a lot of grass-roots groups could be affected by the law, and that the fear of liability or running afoul of the law may turn social media platforms like Facebook into a “government speech cop.”