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.
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Scott Blackburn column: Wave election possible because of Virginia’s campaign finance laws (In the News)
By Scott Blackburn
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.
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.
By Bradley A. Smith
Sen. Tom Udall (D., N.M.) tweeted back that “POTUS is again openly suggesting an abuse of power.” Yet Mr. Udall has repeatedly sponsored a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to regulate political speech. He reintroduced it this year, making clear he wanted to regulate speech by “Wall Street” and “corporations.” …
So why not revoke the licenses of stations that are unfair or inaccurate in their coverage? Many Trump critics are demanding that Facebook and Twitter act to eliminate “fake news” online. Why then tolerate biased reporting from broadcasters?
The answer is that government can’t be trusted to decide which reporting counts as fake news. After all, one man’s “distortion” is another’s “straight talk.” While Mr. Udall thinks corporations are too powerful, others might say labor unions. The temptation will be to silence opponents. What the government is most likely to crack down on is news that’s critical of the government.
That’s why we have a First Amendment. Those who pine for more regulation of campaign speech should take this “teachable moment” to ponder two questions: Does free speech apply to all Americans, or only to the favored few calling themselves “the press?” And are political opponents the only ones who cannot be trusted with the power to censor critics?
People’s Pundit Daily: Analysis: “Honest Ads Act” Is Dishonest; It Targets Americans, Not Foreign Influence (In the News)
By PPD Elections Staff
[A]n analysis of the so-called “Honest Ads Act” finds the bill does almost nothing to regulate foreign interference in U.S. elections. Instead, it predominantly targets Americans and would impose broad-based, restrictions and regulations on Americans’ free speech rights.
“Legislation that responds to foreign meddling by regulating the speech of Americans will not limit foreign influence in American political campaigns,” said Eric Wang, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Free Speech, which conducted the analysis. “Worse, it will impede the ability of Americans to use their own speech to call out and expose ‘fake news’ and propaganda.”
While the Institute for Free Speech says they’re “deeply disturbed” by the efforts of Russia and other hostile foreign actors, the legislation will undermine our democracy, not secure it. It will advance Vladimir Putin’s agenda, not derail it, by sowing further division and “placing considerable limits and burdens on the online political speech of Americans.”
An overwhelming 99.99% of the online political ads regulated by the bill will be purchased by Americans, while ads purchased by foreigners represent less than 0.01%.
Morning Consult: FEC Commissioner Says Agency Limited in Ability to Regulate Online Political Ads (In the News)
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.”
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.