By Thomas Wheatley
Donald Trump is hardly the first public official to want to get back at his critics using libel laws. If he sues the publisher of “Fire and Fury,” the book on his presidency, he’ll likely fail. It’s worth revisiting why…
In an opinion by Justice William Brennan, the court struck down Alabama’s law and instituted a new legal requirement of “actual malice” for defamation of public officials, a standard now familiar to all First Amendment lawyers…
Sure, the Times’ advertisement was not factually precise, but imagine if it had to be. Every Tweet or Facebook comment containing a single falsehood about a public official could be subject to ruinous liability. Citizens and groups would dare not speak and the discourse essential to our republic’s survival would grind to a halt…
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission reinforced the vast speech protections enshrined into federal law by decisions like New York Times v. Sullivan. Although Sullivan dealt with libel law where Citizens United concerned an outright ban on speech, the relationship between the two is clear: Had the Court in 1964 decided the Times, a corporation, did not have the same free speech rights as an individual, defeating Jim Crow would have proven that much harder.
Public Policy Legal Institute: Do As I Say, Not As I Do – The Latest 4th Circuit Travel Ban Opinion Has the Same Problem It Condemned In the Travel Ban It Enjoined (In the News)
By Barnaby Zall
We should be happy that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit took our advice in its latest decision enjoining the Trump Administration’s “travel ban” Executive Orders. After all, as the Public Policy Legal Institute and the Institute for Free Speech (formerly called the Center for Competitive Politics) requested last year, the Supreme Court instructed the Fourth Circuit not to restrain candidates’ campaign-trail speech, and the Fourth Circuit said in its February 15 decision: “we need not and thus do not rely on pre-election statements in assessing the constitutionality of the Proclamation.” Slip op., 46.
Except … despite that declaration, they did.
They didn’t themselves cite the candidate’s statements, except in a footnote. But the District Court below used campaign-trail quotes as the basis for its holding against the travel ban, and then the Fourth Circuit cited that holding without qualification or correction…
[L]et’s let the dissenting Fourth Circuit judges explain the problem: …
“[T]he new rule would by itself chill political speech directed at voters seeking to make their election decision. It is hard to imagine a greater or more direct burden on campaign speech than the knowledge that any statement made might be used later to support the inference of some nefarious intent when official actions are inevitably subjected to legal challenges.” Slip Op., 264-66.
Filed Under: In the News
Foreign nationals have no right to impersonate Americans to interfere in elections Alexandria, VA – The Institute for Free Speech released the following statement today on the indictments of 13 Russian nationals on charges of interfering in the 2016 presidential election: “As an organization dedicated to defending and advancing Americans’ First Amendment political speech rights, […]
By Jake Pearson and Jeff Horwitz, Associated Press
Stormy Daniels, the porn star whom Donald Trump’s attorney acknowledges paying $130,000 just before Election Day, believes she is now free to discuss an alleged sexual encounter with the man who is now president, her manager told The Associated Press Wednesday.
At the same time, developments in the bizarre case are fueling questions about whether such a payment could violate federal campaign finance laws…
[T]he payment by Trump’s lawyer was not reported as a campaign expenditure nor an in-kind contribution, and the origin of the money is still unclear, said Paul Ryan, a vice president at Common Cause, the group that filed the complaint.
But Bradley Smith, the Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission from 2000 to 2005, was skeptical that the payment by Cohen could pose a campaign finance issue.
“You’d have to prove that it was a coordinated expenditure, and that the reason it was done was for the benefit of the campaign,” he said. If the payment was made to protect Trump’s brand or avoid personal embarrassment, he said, that would likely not be a campaign problem.
Concord Monitor: “Fix It America” constitutional amendment is latest attempt to undo First Amendment (In the News)
By Joe Albanese
Will the Twenty-Eighth Amendment be a repeal of the First? One proposed amendment might amount to that. It calls for sweeping regulations on the ability to practice free speech in politics, and even says its provisions can’t “be deemed in violation of freedom of speech rights.”
That should set off alarm bells in your head. It raises the question of why such a caveat is necessary in the first place. That exact phrase comes from the so-called “Fix It America” amendment (H.B. 1524), which was recently discussed in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, and written about in the Monitor by John Pudner of Take Back Our Republic.
The “regulations” referred to in that amendment come from a prior clause: “Congress and State Legislatures shall regulate the role of money in elections and governance…” This clause requires regulation of the spending of money on campaigns and policy advocacy (since it says the government “shall” regulate, not that it “may” regulate), which necessitates the restricting of your free speech. The reason is simple: in the modern era, you need to spend some money to spread your message to a large number of people – whether it’s placing ads or simply printing out fliers. Or for that matter, publishing a newspaper like this one.
By Katie Lannan, State House News Service
Proposed campaign finance regulations governing non-profits’ disclosure of donors came under fire Tuesday from groups that called them overly broad and warned they could discourage contributions…
Allen Dickerson, the Institute for Free Speech’s legal director, said the proposed regulations do not help the public identify the “true speaker” behind a political message.
“If an individual gives money to a candidate’s committee, they do so for the purposes of supporting that candidate,” Dickerson said. “That association is clear and reporting them as a supporter is accurate…but telling the public that someone supports a particular political message even when they do not give to actually fund that message, doesn’t do this. Instead, such reports mislead the public by arbitrarily connecting individuals to granular political messages even when they give only to general causes.” …
Tad Heuer, a lawyer representing [Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance], said some of the changes were “impermissibly vague” and would prevent donors and organizations from knowing before a contribution was made whether disclosure would be required.
OCPF [Office of Campaign and Political Finance] plans to take feedback on the draft regulations into consideration before issuing a final version this spring.