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.
Republican National Lawyers Association: Testimony to House Oversight Committee on Threat to Free Speech from Online Ad Regulation (In the News)
By Lisa Dixon
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.”
Nextgov: Online Political Ad Bill Could Burden Small Publishers, Experts Tell House Panel (In the News)
By Jack Corrigan
The Honest Ads Act, introduced last week by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Mark Warner, D-Va., would expand the Federal Election Campaign Act’s definition of “electioneering communication” to include paid political ads online…
Interactive Advertising Bureau President and CEO Randall Rothenberg raised concerns about a section of the bill that requires web platforms to keep a public registry of advertisers-in a machine-readable format-who have spent more than $500 cumulatively on online ads.
While this wouldn’t be an issue for large platforms like Facebook and Twitter, he argued it could place an undue burden on smaller publishers. Rosenberg also suggested that self-regulation by the platforms could make a larger impact than federal legislation.
Some panelists also expressed concern that the legislation could stifle free speech.
FECA already prohibits foreign nationals from making any contribution to any federal, state or local U.S. election, and provides the tools needed to combat interference by Russia or any other country, said Allen Dickerson, legal director of the Center for Competitive Politics. He also said the Honest Ads Act could infringe on citizens’ first amendment right to political free speech by tacking on additional compliance rules to small, cash-strapped grassroots campaigns.
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.
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.”
By Paul Jossey
In the Supreme Court’s closely watched redistricting case, the Court’s progressive justices queried the counsel for the Wisconsin Legislature for unseemly motives, aware a favorable ruling would boost the state’s Republicans. As Justice Elena Kagan stated: Legislators think “often – not always – but often about [future] elections …and they use methods in order to ensure that certain results will obtain not only in the next one but eight years down the road.”
Yet these same justices dispel similar dubious motives in campaign finance cases. By deferring to legislators writing campaign rules, the justices miss the same interplay between law and the desire for power and reelection. Incumbents use both campaign rules and gerrymandered maps to preserve power…
That the Court should accept lawmaker estimates on their corruptibility via contribution or other speech limits is absurd. Applying economic principles to legislative behavior reveals that, not corruption, but self-preservation usually guides these limits.
By handicapping challengers, the limits themselves “corrupt” lawmakers by enabling safer districts. The court’s progressives would be wise to consider the motives of those writing the rules in future campaign finance cases.
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.”