By Braden H. Boucek
This sign belonged to a Memphis-area gentleman, Bill Thomas, who was perfectly within his rights to have a sign on this location. He actually owned the property and the State specifically allows the construction of billboards on-premises. Everything about this sign was by the book. Except for what it said. This violation of free speech is why we joined a case to support the legal effort to protect Mr. Thomas’ first amendment right to celebrate holiday cheer…
In Bill’s case, his sign was illegal solely because what it said. The State allows only a limited number of messages to be available for display on-premises. Advertising a business located on-site, for instance, would be allowed. So if the sign had advertised a restaurant on the property and read “Eat at Bill’s,” or if it was a “For Sale” sign he would have been fine. But he can’t wish you a Merry Christmas on the same sign that he could have advertised tires.
This is just completely upside down. The government should be getting out of the business of preferring different types of speech. But it really makes no sense to crack down on speech that is non-commercial in nature. Other signs the State banned encouraged supporting American Olympic athletes, and another sign critical of state officials who were enforcing these laws. American flags and pumpkins shouldn’t be banned on any sign that could contain an advertisement.
By Braden H. Boucek
David Keating, President of the Institute for Free Speech, discusses his organization’s Free Speech Index, which details how well each state protects the First Amendment right to engage in political speech and assesses the harmful restrictions on political speech adopted by some of the states.
By Michael Gold
On April 12, Mr. Hannity spent most of his show discussing James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director who released a memoir describing his relationship with Mr. Trump this week.
But he diverged briefly to discuss a report that a former Federal Election Commission chairman, Bradley Smith, did not think Mr. Cohen should be charged over his payment to Ms. Clifford.
“Smith is arguing that Cohen’s payment is a perfectly legitimate business move,” Mr. Hannity said, “and that any attempt to connect it to an in-kind contribution is an extreme stretch. It doesn’t fit.”
Then Mr. Hannity turned back to other news.
Filed Under: In the News
Washington Examiner: The strangest scenes from Mark Zuckerberg’s Senate testimony on Facebook (In the News)
By Joe Albanese
The hearing was ostensibly about data privacy, but that subject (and the hearing’s more outlandish moments) are not the only reason Americans should care about Facebook. Zuckerberg’s exchanges with senators have important implications for political speech rights as well.
First, it’s worth noting the emerging consensus that the senators’ lines of questioning revealed startling ignorance about how Facebook even works. That hasn’t reduced their propensity to regulate that which they do not understand…
This ties into a crucial matter relating to free speech – the intermittent references to the so-called “Honest Ads Act,” which would impose regulations on broad swaths of political speech online. Senators like Tom Udall, D-N.M., did their best to connect the bill to Russian interference in U.S. elections. Despite this, by the sponsors’ own admission, the bill would restrict the 99.99 percent of online political ads purchased by Americans in order to address less than 0.01 percent purchased by foreigners in the 2016 cycle. The Internet is unique as an inexpensive and invaluable forum for allowing virtually anyone to express their viewpoints to the broader public. The Honest Ads Act would negate these benefits with burdensome reporting and disclaimer requirements. Even ads that are not targeted to the “relevant electorate” of an election would face these conditions, making the bill stricter than existing rules for large-scale TV and radio advertising.
By Kevin Daley
A 1991 case called McCormick v. U.S. explains that extortion in the campaign contribution context is only unlawful when a politician accepts a donation in exchange for an explicit promise or undertaking. However, a different case, Evans v. U.S., makes it unlawful to accept a contribution knowing a donor made it with certain expectations.
His petition claims federal appeals courts are divided as to how to reconcile these two cases, while the government says Blagojevich’s lawyers are manufacturing a non-existent controversy. The Court is much more likely to intervene when multiple federal appellate courts disagree about the same question of law.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sets precedent for the jurisdiction where Blagojevich was convicted, has embraced the weaker Evans standard. The former governor’s lawyers say the Supreme Court should clarify which case controls extortion prosecutions, toss out the conviction, and order a new trial.
Free speech advocates say the Evans standard is dangerous, and lends itself to prosecutorial overreach. The Institute for Free Speech submitted an amicus (or “friend-of-the-court”) brief urging the justices to take the case, arguing the Evans standard is so vague and overbroad that it allows prosecutors to bring cases based only on the subjective expectations of donors. They also fear it helps entrench incumbents, as it makes fundraising more difficult for first-time candidates.
Washington Post: Sean Hannity had a lot to say about Michael Cohen lately. But he left a few things out. (In the News)
By Paul Farhi
On his syndicated radio and Fox TV show, Hannity has torn into special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign, calling it a “witch hunt” in an echo of Trump’s rhetoric. He has also played down Cohen’s role in facilitating payments to Daniels.
On his program on Thursday, for example, he quoted former Federal Election Commission chairman Bradley Smith, a Republican, who disputed the notion that Cohen should be charged with a crime “in connection to this whole Stormy Daniels payment.”
Said Hannity: “Smith is arguing that Cohen’s payment is a perfectly legitimate business move, and that any attempt to connect it to an in-kind [political] contribution is an extreme stretch. It doesn’t fit.”