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.”
Morning Consult: FEC Commissioner Says Agency Limited in Ability to Regulate Online Political Ads (In the News)
By Edward Graham
CBC News: ‘Not going to be a cakewalk’: Social media sites face hurdles curbing foreign political ads (In the News)
By Mark Gollom
Some of the ads that ran this election on social media sites mentioned the candidates but were not expressly election ads, said Richard Hasen, a political science and law professor at the University of California at Irvine. And many of them appeared to be neither election ads nor ads mentioning candidates…
Hasen also said it’s not clear whether the restrictions on electioneering communication by foreign entities apply on digital-only platforms.
“It appears, from what little we know, most of these ads would not be illegal under current U.S. law.”
To address this, a bill named the “Honest Ads Act” has been drafted by two Democratic senators and has received support from Republican Sen. John McCain…
The Institute for Free Speech said the bill fails “to meaningfully address foreign interference while placing considerable limits and burdens on the online political speech of Americans.”
“Legislation that attempts to limit foreign interference in our democracy by broadly regulating the free speech rights of Americans would, in fact, undermine our democracy and directly advance Vladimir Putin’s agenda,” wrote Eric Wang of the institute.
By Emma Leathley
Representatives from Twitter, Facebook and Google are expected to testify this week at three congressional hearings on the influence of social media in the 2016 election…
Last week, current and former representatives of print, online and broadcast media as well as two nonprofits testified on the House bill before the House Subcommittee on Information Technology.
Allen Dickerson, the legal director for the Institute for Free Speech, said he opposed adding online political ads to existing regulations on electioneering communications on the pretext of preventing foreign intervention, which Congress can regulate separately.
The Institute for Free Speech (IFS) – known as the Center for Competitive Politics until last week – generally opposes campaign finance transparency on First Amendment grounds. The organization represented the plaintiffs in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, which helped give rise to super PACs.
The Hill: Federal move to undo internet freedom would make US more like Russia, not less (In the News)
By Eric Wang
This week, three congressional committee hearings will probe Russian attempts to influence our election campaign last year on social media. S.1989, the recently introduced, so-called “Honest Ads Act,” likely will feature prominently. The bill is being sold “first and foremost [as addressing] an issue of national security.”
But unless Americans exercising their First Amendment rights is now “an issue of national security,” the bill and its sponsors are not being honest about its effects. With Americans bearing 99.99 percent of its regulatory impact, the “Honest Ads Act” is a sledgehammer for a problem better addressed with a scalpel.
According to the bill’s own legislative findings and its sponsors’ remarks, more than $1.4 billion was spent on online political advertising last year. Of that amount, some $100,000 (less than 0.01 percent) has been reported thus far as coming from Russian interests. But S.1989 fails at even a perfunctory attempt to target foreign interference. Instead, the bill would almost entirely regulate Americans.
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.
By Joe Albanese
Many of those who overstate the power of large donors are, unsurprisingly, also the same people arguing for more restrictions on political spending and giving. They either don’t realize or willfully ignore that money isn’t just a tool for the wealthy and powerful. It enables citizens to pool their resources and amplify their voices.
That’s why membership groups like AARP and labor unions are so influential. Restricting one form of political speech would just force Americans to find other, perhaps more burdensome ways to make their voices heard. More importantly, First Amendment rights to political speech are inseparable from the ability to give money to a campaign, party, or advocacy group. The Supreme Court has said so for decades.
A strong democracy requires different groups voicing their concerns in different ways. This helps politicians keep their finger on the pulse of supporters and detractors. Donating money hasn’t allowed one viewpoint to dominate government. As long as differing viewpoints exist, it never will. It’s certainly one powerful way to let politicians know when the American people notice that promises have not been kept.
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.
Wall Street Journal: Proposed Legislation to Boost Online-Ad Disclosures Draws Criticism (In the News)
By Julie Bykowicz
Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) introduced a bill last week that proposed online disclosure and reporting requirements for any political entity that spends more than $500 in a given year on a platform that has a major audience…
“The idea that we’re going to allow a group of regulators, a group of bureaucrats to regulate what we will be able to see in terms of social media or other formats offends me and I will certainly oppose that in any way I can,” Rep. Paul Mitchell (R., Mich.) said at a hearing this week about online advertising.
David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which advocates for less campaign finance-regulation, said Mr. Warner’s plan is “basically a campaign finance bill taking advantage of the controversy of Russian speech in our election cycle.”
He said it would make it tougher for Americans to participate in politics by potentially increasing the cost of social-media advertising that small groups use as online companies may pass on the costs of the mandated screening…
The FEC has reopened its comment period on rules for online advertising-something it has largely avoided regulating over the years.
By Nick Budnick
Written by the county’s charter review committee with input from local activists, the measure was designed to conflict with Supreme Court rulings on both the state and federal level, giving activists a path to revive campaign contribution limits in Oregon and the entire country through the appeals process.
In April, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners started that process, voting to forward the measure to a judge for constitutional validation. County attorneys filed a brief supporting the campaign reforms.
In August, Multnomah Circuit Judge Eric Bloch heard arguments over the measure. Business groups including the Portland Business Alliance argued against it, citing past court rulings, and so did the Taxpayers Association of Oregon – the latter in conjunction with a Virginia-based group called the Center for Competitive Politics…
“The plain fact is that these very regulations have been tried before, these same arguments routinely made, and both have been repeatedly rejected by the highest courts. This court has no discretion to revisit those decisions,” contended two attorneys for the Virginia center, Owen Yeates and Allen Dickerson.
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
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.