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
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.”
By Doug Brown
It’s now been more than three weeks since proponents and opponents of a voter-approved set of campaign finance reforms faced off in Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bloch’s courtroom on August 15, and days since the reforms kicked in September 1. Though those new restrictions are supposedly in effect, Bloch has yet to rule on whether the campaign contribution and expense caps violate the state constitution. Multnomah County, officials say, is now in a gray area of campaign finance law…
This summer, an attorney for the Center for Competitive Politics…sought to represent the conservative Taxpayers Association of Oregon in opposition to the measure. They were joined in opposition by the Portland Business Alliance, landlord lobby the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors, realtor Alan Mehrwein, and corporate advocacy group Associated Oregon Industry.
Ballot Access News: Libertarian Party Files Brief Attacking Federal Campaign Limit on Bequests (In the News)
By Richard Winger
On September 5, the Libertarian National Committee filed this 27-page brief in Libertarian National Committee v Federal Election Commission, U.S. District Court, D.C., 1:16cv-121. The issue is whether it is constitutional for the federal government to prevent the party from receiving a bequest of amounts greater than $33,900 in any one year…
This is the second such lawsuit. The first one, when Raymond Burrington died and left the party $217,734, took so long to adjudicate, the money had all been possessed by the party before it was over, so it was declared moot. This case was filed in 2016 and is likely to be quicker, because some of the issues were already settled in the first lawsuit.
This new case is stronger than the last one, because in late 2014, Congress passed a budget bill that said national political parties could receive contributions almost ten times higher, if the money was used for one of three purposes: legal, national convention expenses, or headquarters expenses. The party argues that if such big contributions are now legal if a party wants to use the money just for those purposes, then a general gift to such a party can’t possibly cause corruption.
By Brendan Kirby
Trump ordered a 90-day pause of travelers from six majority-Muslim nations and a 120-day pause on refugee resettlements to give the government time to implement “extreme vetting” procedures. But appeals courts in Richmond, Virginia, and San Francisco both ruled the executive order unconstitutional and blocked it from taking effect.
The Supreme Court partially reversed that, allowing portions of the ban to take effect. The court has set oral arguments for Oct 10 to consider the underlying merits of the case.
Other briefs filed this month include…
A friend-of-the-court brief by two organizations, the Public Policy Legal Institute and Center for Competitive Politics. They object to the appeals courts assessing motive based on campaign statements: “A judicial review of campaign speech — even speech that sheds light on the reasons for later official action — chills expression and conflicts with numerous long-standing protections for campaign speech.”
By Associated Press
A Missouri appellate court says a judge’s blocking an ethics panel from requiring a conservative activist to register to lobby the Legislature was premature.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports a Missouri Court of Appeals ruling Tuesday allows the Missouri Ethics Commission to again begin a hearing over whether Ron Calzone can appear before the House and Senate without formally registering.
Calzone heads the Missouri First group that promotes limited government.
He speaks to lawmakers often at public hearings but says he doesn’t buy food or gifts for them.
The commission in 2015 fined Calzone $1,000 and barred him from trying to influence potential state legislation until he registers and files expenditure reports. But a Missouri judge last year tossed that case and barred any further action on it.