By Thomas Wheately
The Institute for Free Speech recently released its first Free Speech Index, which grades states on their contribution-limit laws for candidates, political parties and political action committees. Virginia scored at the top of the index, earning a perfect A-plus rating. Maryland, however, scored an F, placing the Free State fifth-to-last on the index…
Virginia imposes no limits on political giving. This includes unlimited giving to all state candidates by individuals, committees, parties, unions and corporations. Only four other states in the union share this uniquely unbridled freedom to give, and they’re as politically diverse as they are geographically: Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon and Utah. Six more place no limits on individual donations.
Maryland, on the other hand, imposes extreme restrictions on political giving. Although most states place no limit on how much an individual can give to a party, Maryland takes two bites at the free-speech apple by limiting individuals’ ability to contribute to parties and limiting the amount of support that parties can provide their candidates. And that limit isn’t very high. Individuals, committees, parties, unions and corporations may give only up to $6,000 per four-year election cycle to any candidate for state office. (Before 2013, that limit was even lower at $4,000.) To Maryland’s credit, however, family members of a candidate may make unlimited contributions to their loved one’s campaign.
Archives for April 2018
By Thomas Wheately
By Luke Wachob and Alex Baiocco
Colorado earns the worst grade in the nation for limits on individuals. Only one state has lower limits on the amount individuals can contribute to legislative candidates and only Alaska has lower limits on what contributors can give to political committees. Individuals in Colorado can give only $200 per election to candidates for the state Senate and state House of Representatives and the state imposes a limit of $575 per cycle on individual giving to political committees. These excessively low limits undoubtedly stifle important speech about candidates and elections in the Centennial State.
In all the debate over what can go wrong when people give money to candidates, we rarely stop to consider the benefits. Making a donation to a candidate or group with shared beliefs is one of the simplest and most effective ways for Americans to make their voices heard. These contributions fund campaign spending that raises awareness and interest in elections, especially among those least interested in government.
Contribution limits stand in the way of this process. They hinder candidates trying to spread their messages and make it harder for voters to learn about the choices they’ll be asked to make on Election Day. Perhaps most disappointing of all, they hobble political newcomers trying to shake up the system.
Kansas City Star: AG Hawley investigating Gov. Greitens’ use of Facebook, other social media (In the News)
By Tessa Weinberg
Hawley’s office had previously agreed with Greitens that his social media accounts were private, telling the Star in February that it would not require Greitens to turn over private messages, names of users who were blocked or emails used to create his social accounts.
But newly revealed emails cast doubt on whether Greitens can withhold such information from the public.
Hawley’s office said it would begin the new investigation after The Star asked about emails that appear to show a state employee helping craft a Facebook post for the governor at a time when Greitens had only one Facebook page, which he had used for his campaign…
David Keating, president of the nonprofit Institute for Free Speech, which advocates for the rights of political speech and less regulation of campaign finance, said that if a campaign account is repeatedly used as the first platform to announce government business – as Trump’s often is – and is primarily managed by a government employee, then the nature of the “unofficial” account has changed.
“If there’s basically a state employee who just winds up managing the unofficial account all the time … that would be pretty heavy evidence that the unofficial account has become an official one,” Keating said.
The Republican (MassLive.com): Massachusetts among 10 worst states according to free speech index (In the News)
By Luke Wachob and Alex Baiocco
In a new Free Speech Index on political giving, Massachusetts, along with ten other states, receives an ‘F’ grade.
Massachusetts’ poor grade in the Free Speech Index is driven by its low limits on individual giving. Only Colorado fares worse in this portion of the Institute’s report. Individuals in Massachusetts can give only $1,000 per year to candidates; only Alaska has a lower limit for gubernatorial candidates. In addition, the state’s annual limit on donations to candidates is constitutionally suspect and gives a large fundraising advantage to incumbents. Massachusetts’ limits are also not adjusted for inflation, meaning a Bay Stater’s ability to support candidates will continually decline. On top of that, parties can provide no more support than $3,000 per year to their own candidates. These factors combine to make Massachusetts one of the most restrictive states in the nation for political giving…
Eleven states earn ‘A’ grades and allow individuals to donate without limit to the candidates, parties, and groups of their choice. Short of that goal, most states can significantly improve their grade by implementing simple reforms, such as adjusting limits for inflation.
Can the government silence speech about an election simply because the speaker is a corporation? Can it deny voters the opportunity to hear a corporation’s views on issues? Forty years ago, the Supreme Court answered no in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti.
Filed Under: Featured Content
PDF available here “The inherent worth of the speech in terms of its capacity for informing the public does not depend upon the identity of its source, whether corporation, association, union, or individual.” – First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 777 (1978) Can the government silence speech about an election simply […]
Filed Under: Blog, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, First Amendment, Issues, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Research, Ballot Issue Advocacy, corporate speech, First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, Supreme Court, First Amendment, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Massachusetts
Facing South: Will Congress close the loophole that enabled Facebook’s Russian ad scandal? (In the News)
By Sue Strugis
The first peer-reviewed research into ads bought on Facebook to influence the 2016 U.S. elections has been published, and its findings shed light on an increasingly important but largely unregulated corner of politics…
Election watchdogs are pointing to the study’s findings to build the case for the Honest Ads Act…
[W]hen Congress held hearings last year on online political ads following the bill’s introduction, the Institute for Free Speech (IFS, formerly known as the Center for Competitive Politics) testified against the legislation. The Alexandria, Virginia-based nonprofit generally opposes campaign finance transparency on First Amendment grounds. For example, IFS represented the plaintiffs in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave rise to super PACS – spending committees that can take unlimited donations from corporations, unions, associations, and individuals.
IFS was founded by former Republican FEC commissioner Bradley Smith. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, now the majority leader, recommended Smith for the FEC post, and he was nominated by President Clinton and eventually approved by the Senate despite his controversial deregulatory views. Meanwhile, McConnell has expressed skepticism about the Honest Ads Act, which he said “would mostly penalize American citizens trying to use the internet and to advertise.”
Filed Under: In the News