Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians for various violations of U.S. law pertaining to elections is drawing a lot of quick and often uninformed comment about campaign finance and lobbying laws. Today let’s start with this piece, which seems to be making the rounds: Does Mueller Indictment Mean Clinton Campaign Can Be Indicted for […]
The Institute has urged the Supreme Court to strike down overbroad speech restrictions at the voting booth in Minnesota. In this case, the Eighth Circuit upheld a law prohibiting a voter from wearing a T-shirt that depicted the Gadsden flag, the historic American emblem depicting a coiled rattlesnake and the words, “don’t tread on me.”
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.”
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.
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.”