By Suzy Khimm
The Klobuchar-Warner bill has elicited criticism from some free-speech advocates, including a former Republican FEC commissioner, who argue that the legislation would have an adverse impact on political speech by ordinary Americans, subjecting small grass-roots groups to burdensome reporting requirements and legal liability.
Policy experts also question how the bill would actually work. Daphne Keller of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society pointed to the challenges of determining whether an ad buyer is a foreign entity, particularly if buyers rely on outside vendors to purchase ads.
“Nobody knows how to figure out who counts as Russian,” she said. “It seems extremely easy to hide your identity.”
But supporters say that the bill’s narrow focus – and the coming 2018 and 2020 elections – could give it a shot at passage…
In late October, shortly before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Facebook officials unveiled new changes that would require political advertisers to verify their identity and include new disclosures in election ads. On Wednesday, the company announced a new tool that would let users see if they had engaged with content created by certain Russian propagandists.
By Suzy Khimm
Filed Under: In the News
By Dennis Romboy
Government lawyers have asked a judge not to dismiss the Federal Election Commission complaint against former Utah Attorney General John Swallow.
The government says in a new court filing that it has a “more-than-plausible” case that Swallow violated the FEC’s ban on making campaign contributions in the name of another person…
Swallow’s new lawyers from the Virginia-based Institute for Free Speech, including a former FEC chairman, want Judge Dee Benson to dismiss the complaint.
Swallow broke no law, and the regulation cited in the complaint is illegal and violates the First Amendment, according to his lawyers.
Congress never created secondary liability – the practice of holding one party legally responsible for helping another – for the type of campaign finance violation Swallow is alleged to have committed, they say.
Not only is the FEC going after Swallow for something he did not do, it is pursuing him for violating a law that does not exist, his lawyer argued.
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Scott Blackburn column: Wave election possible because of Virginia’s campaign finance laws (In the News)
By Scott Blackburn
That wave elections happen is welcome news for democracy. Incumbent legislators have many advantages over challengers, particularly those without a political pedigree. The only way many new faces get a chance in politics is on the back of a political groundswell.
But how many newcomers get to “ride the wave” depends greatly on how easy or hard it is to run a campaign. Luckily for candidates in Virginia, the state has some of the most pro-free speech campaign laws in the country.
Like just 10 other states, Virginia has no limit on how much individuals may donate to a candidate’s campaign…
In every seat that flipped parties in the election, the candidate who won received a contribution that would have been prohibited as too large under federal campaign finance rules…
Ironically, now the wave of newcomers becomes the incumbents…
More importantly, they will have the ability to reshape campaign rules for the future.
Let’s hope that they don’t tilt those rules in their own favor. That they are good stewards of democracy. That they remember that campaigning is hard, that campaigns are expensive, and that the goal of the law should be to make it as easy as possible for the future outsider to get into politics.
Center for Public Integrity: The players who have shaped campaign finance over the decades (In the News)
By Ashley Balcerzak and John Dunbar
David Keating, then-executive director of the conservative Club for Growth, founded SpeechNow.org to “call out” politicians he saw as trampling on the public’s First Amendment rights in the wake of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation, he said…
[I]n February 2008, SpeechNow.org sued the Federal Election Commission, arguing large donations to fund independent political activity are protected under the First Amendment. The District of Columbia Circuit Court decision in the SpeechNow case – predicated on the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC – led to the creation of super PACs…
Keating is now the president of the conservative Institute for Free Speech, formerly known as the Center for Competitive Politics, a group that is currently bringing at least five cases dealing with First Amendment infringement…
The Center for Competitive Politics, now called the Institute for Free Speech, describes itself as the “the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political speech rights.” It was founded in 2005 by Bradley Smith, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Smith is the chairman. The organization is a prolific litigator and advocates for limited regulation of money in politics. It fights regularly to preserve donor anonymity.
Center for Public Integrity: Kochs key among small group quietly funding legal assault on campaign finance regulation (In the News)
By Lateshia Beachum
The [Institute for Free Speech] has waged war against the FEC as litigators, and it has represented others when political free speech is under attack.
David Keating, president of the [Institute for Free Speech], said the organization is simply honoring the guarantees of the First Amendment more so than political ideology or deregulation…
“Our country didn’t have campaign contribution limits until the 1970s,” he said. “I don’t see there’s any evidence that it’s made people we’re electing better than they were before the 1970s.”
Keating said government should make it easier for average citizens to become politically involved and, therefore, it should rethink contribution laws.
While the [Institute for Free Speech] has not objected to disclosure by candidates and PACs, it is not in favor of pushing for more disclosure. Doing so, said Keating, would result in more difficult fundraising for groups and misleading disclosure information.
“Disclosure is where a lot of the action is right now,” he said. “That’s going to be in the courts and we may well be the ones representing the plaintiffs.”
Washington Post: Danica Roem’s win proves it: We don’t need to restrict campaign contributions (In the News)
By Luke Wachob
Roem outraised Marshall 3-to-1 thanks in part to large donations from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates across the country. This was possible because Virginia is one of just a handful of states that impose no limits on who can contribute, or how much, to a political candidate…
If new political movements are to gain traction, states need to make it easy for candidates to organize, raise funds and speak to voters. The harder it is to campaign, the more the advantages shift to incumbents and well-connected political operatives.
Roem’s success shows how outsiders can benefit from a lighter touch…
Without extensive regulation of the political process, many argue, government is doomed to be dominated by the economically powerful – typically understood as old, white men.
Good news: Reality is not so bleak. Virginia’s freedom for candidates and donors allowed Roem to harness the power of the national LGBT movement. As the Old Dominion welcomes its new delegate, maybe other states should consider adopting its methods.
Let the candidates campaign. Let the donors donate. Let the voters vote. Simple as that.
Republican National Lawyers Association: Supreme Court Grants Cert re Minnesota’s Ban on Political Apparel at the Polls (In the News)
By Lisa Dixon
[T]he Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky to decide whether “Minnesota statute Section 211B.11, which broadly bans all political apparel at the polling place, is facially overbroad under the First Amendment” …
[V]oters do not abandon their rights of free speech at the polling place door, and broad bans on anything “political” clearly infringe on a voter’s free speech rights. Even more disturbingly, a vague prohibition such as Minnesota’s allows a low-ranking government official, often a poll worker hired just for the day, to determine the limits of a voter’s right of free speech by defining “political” (which, in our current culture, has been expanded to embrace almost everything) according to the government official’s opinions. This is the type of tyranny, petty though it may seem, that the First Amendment was designed to combat.
Of note, prominent free speech advocates and election integrity supporters have already filed amici briefs in support of Minnesota Voters Alliance’s challenge to the law: Cato Institute, Rutherford Institute, Reason Foundation, and Individual Rights Foundation; Center for Competitive Politics (now called Institute for Free Speech); and American Civil Rights Union and Association for Government Accountability.
Filed Under: In the News
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.
Americans for Prosperity: Prosperity Podcast #80: Honest Ads Act is a Threat to Free Speech (In the News)
After the 2016 elections, it was revealed that foreign agents bought around $100,000 in social media ads. In response, some members of the House and Senate are seeking stricter regulations on political speech on social media. Is this a necessary step to preserve the integrity of American elections or another example of the erosion of free speech? In this episode, Ed is joined by Allen Dickerson, the legal director for the Institute for Free Speech, who highlights the dangers to speech of regulating online speech.
As tech titans reckon with disruptive foreign interference, Congress debates the Honest Ads Act, aimed at exposing invidious overseas actors. Eric Wang (Institute for Free Speech) argues the legislation would mostly target Americans exercising constitutionally-protected political speech.