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.
Archives for October 2017
By Emma Leathley
Taxpayer-financing of political campaigns is an increasingly salient issue at the state and local level. Advocates of greater campaign finance regulation argue such policies will reduce the influence of large donors in campaigns and, consequently, improve the political system in other areas too. In reality, many years of experience demonstrate that tax-financing of campaigns is […]
The Hill: Federal move to undo internet freedom would make US more like Russia, not less (In the News)
By Eric Wang
This week, three congressional committee hearings will probe Russian attempts to influence our election campaign last year on social media. S.1989, the recently introduced, so-called “Honest Ads Act,” likely will feature prominently. The bill is being sold “first and foremost [as addressing] an issue of national security.”
But unless Americans exercising their First Amendment rights is now “an issue of national security,” the bill and its sponsors are not being honest about its effects. With Americans bearing 99.99 percent of its regulatory impact, the “Honest Ads Act” is a sledgehammer for a problem better addressed with a scalpel.
According to the bill’s own legislative findings and its sponsors’ remarks, more than $1.4 billion was spent on online political advertising last year. Of that amount, some $100,000 (less than 0.01 percent) has been reported thus far as coming from Russian interests. But S.1989 fails at even a perfunctory attempt to target foreign interference. Instead, the bill would almost entirely regulate Americans.
By Jennifer Smola
In most debates involving First Amendment matters on campus, administrators say they are weighing free speech rights versus campus safety. And they’re arriving at sometimes differing conclusions. The University of Cincinnati and Ohio State each received requests and subsequent legal threats to let Spencer speak on campus. While Ohio State repeatedly denied the request and is now facing a federal lawsuit, Cincinnati said it would “uphold the First Amendment and allow Richard Spencer to speak on campus.” …
The only legal argument Ohio State might be able to present is that Spencer’s speech incites violence, and therefore is not protected by the First Amendment, said Tokaji and Capital University Law School professor Bradley A. Smith.
“I don’t think the school could say, ‘We don’t like what Richard Spencer stands for,'” said Smith, chairman and co-founder of the Institute for Free Speech in Alexandria, Virginia. “But they could say ‘we’re not concerned about Richard Spencer coming here per se, we’re concerned that the things he will say … would constitute fighting words that would lead to imminent violence.'”
That still could be difficult to prove, Smith and Tokaji agreed. It’s not enough that Spencer’s words might upset people, they said. Ohio State would have to prove that he specifically says things that cause violence – such as urging his listeners to burn down a building, for example.
“[T]he government can have no anti-corruption interest in limiting contributions to independent expenditure–only organizations.” – SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission The product of a 2010 court ruling, “super PACs” have been a boon to citizens wishing to more effectively speak about elections. Legally, they have ensured that Americans do not lose their First Amendment rights […]
Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure Handouts, Independent Speech, Issues, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Super PACs, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, The Media, Disclosure, Independent Speech, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Disclosure, Independent Speech, Jurisprudence & Litigation
By Joe Albanese
Many of those who overstate the power of large donors are, unsurprisingly, also the same people arguing for more restrictions on political spending and giving. They either don’t realize or willfully ignore that money isn’t just a tool for the wealthy and powerful. It enables citizens to pool their resources and amplify their voices.
That’s why membership groups like AARP and labor unions are so influential. Restricting one form of political speech would just force Americans to find other, perhaps more burdensome ways to make their voices heard. More importantly, First Amendment rights to political speech are inseparable from the ability to give money to a campaign, party, or advocacy group. The Supreme Court has said so for decades.
A strong democracy requires different groups voicing their concerns in different ways. This helps politicians keep their finger on the pulse of supporters and detractors. Donating money hasn’t allowed one viewpoint to dominate government. As long as differing viewpoints exist, it never will. It’s certainly one powerful way to let politicians know when the American people notice that promises have not been kept.
Bradley A. Smith, Chairman and Founder of the Institute for Free Speech and Former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, discusses the so-called “Honest Ads Act,” how the proposed legislation would impose more burdens on Americans’ free speech rights, and the problems with extending the existing “electioneering communication” FEC disclaimer language to social media ads.
Wall Street Journal: Proposed Legislation to Boost Online-Ad Disclosures Draws Criticism (In the News)
By Julie Bykowicz
Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) introduced a bill last week that proposed online disclosure and reporting requirements for any political entity that spends more than $500 in a given year on a platform that has a major audience…
“The idea that we’re going to allow a group of regulators, a group of bureaucrats to regulate what we will be able to see in terms of social media or other formats offends me and I will certainly oppose that in any way I can,” Rep. Paul Mitchell (R., Mich.) said at a hearing this week about online advertising.
David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which advocates for less campaign finance-regulation, said Mr. Warner’s plan is “basically a campaign finance bill taking advantage of the controversy of Russian speech in our election cycle.”
He said it would make it tougher for Americans to participate in politics by potentially increasing the cost of social-media advertising that small groups use as online companies may pass on the costs of the mandated screening…
The FEC has reopened its comment period on rules for online advertising-something it has largely avoided regulating over the years.