New from the Institute for Free Speech IFS Praises IRS Reforms to Protect Donor Information The Institute for Free Speech, America’s largest nonprofit defending First Amendment political speech rights, released the following statement praising Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s decision to modify IRS regulations to no longer require the names and addresses of donors on Schedule […]
Archives for July 2018
Alexandria, VA – The Institute for Free Speech, America’s largest nonprofit defending First Amendment political speech rights, released the following statement praising Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s decision to modify IRS regulations to no longer require the names and addresses of donors on Schedule B of the tax forms filed by certain groups organized under Section 501(c) of the tax […]
By Eric Peterson
The FEC recently heard testimony on two proposals to require disclaimers on online political advertisements. (My employer, the Institute for Free Speech, was one such group.) These dueling options concern only paid ads that specifically endorse or oppose a candidate for office.
At the hearing, some urged the agency to adopt a flexible approach for both speakers and websites hosting political ads. Others supported requiring disclaimers even when a person shares promoted content organically…
The commissioners seemed to agree on a need for a new rule. But it’s unlikely that any proposal will be agreed to and implemented before the midterms. Yet, despite the lack of a new rule, online political ads are already much more heavily regulated than they were in 2016.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google recently rolled out new policies for online ads and promoted content on political issues or candidates. In addition, three states (Maryland, New York, and Washington) have enacted strict laws for Internet ads…
The steps taken by the big three companies are certainly not immune from criticism. But their leaders are aware that they must strike a balance between competing priorities. They must weigh allowing viewers to have more information about ads while not overburdening those who want to speak. These companies know their platforms best and can tailor solutions to address the needs of various parties while fixing any issues.
With this in mind, the FEC’s goal should be maximizing the ability of Americans to speak about the causes about which they are passionate. This means using the lightest regulatory touch possible, promoting flexibility, and allowing companies to come up with solutions that fit their unique platforms.
Puget Sound Business Journal: Opinion: Google’s political ad ban gives incumbents a big boost (In the News)
By Scott Blackburn and Dann Mead Smith
Now that Google is banning political ads in Washington, newer candidates will have a harder time getting their campaigns off the ground, Scott Blackburn and Dann Mead Smith argue.
The Intercept: Brett Kavanaugh, Who Has Ruled Against Campaign Finance Regulations, Could Bring an Avalanche of Big Money to Elections (In the News)
By Lee Fang
Over the years, one of the most aggressive groups dedicated to litigating against campaign finance rules in support of unlimited private donor power has been the Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit led by Republican legal scholars. Embracing the latest trend of weaponizing the First Amendment, the organization rebranded last year and is now known as the Institute for Free Speech.
In a statement posted this week, the group extended a strong endorsement to Trump’s pick. In the past, Kavanaugh has appeared alongside Institute for Free Speech leader Brad Smith, moderating a Federalist Society panel on the importance of donor secrecy. But it is Kavanaugh’s long record of campaign deregulation that earned him high praise. Kavanaugh’s opinion in the EMILY’s List decision, the institute gushed in a post on its site, “foreshadowed the Citizens United and SpeechNow.org opinions” – two federal court cases that relied on free speech principles to upend limitations on corporate and private campaign spending.
While Citizens United formally legalized unlimited corporate, union, and individual spending in the election system, the SpeechNow.org decision in its immediate wake allowed the creation of expenditure-only committees, also known as Super PACs. That decision, which Kavanaugh joined in ruling against the Federal Election Commission, held that “the government can have no anti-corruption interest in limiting contributions to independent expenditure-only organizations.”
Kavanaugh’s work, however, was far from done – much to the Institute for Free Speech’s delight. The group proudly lists a number of cases in which Kavanaugh has struck down FEC rules following the EMILY’s List decision.
By Scott Zimmerman
On June 27, Democrats in both chambers of Congress reintroduced the DISCLOSE Act to provide what the lead Senate sponsor, Sheldon Whitehouse (RI-D), calls “a commonsense solution to restore transparency and accountability in our political system.” …
Opponents of the DISCLOSE Act include the Institute for Free Speech (formerly known as the Center for Competitive Politics), The Heritage Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, The American Conservative Union, CatholicVote.org, and Citizens Against Government Waste.
These groups argue that the act violates the First Amendment, but a Brennan Center analysis found that “there can be no credible doubt” that a similar 2012 version of the DISCLOSE Act was fully constitutional. As Common Cause points out, “the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected any arguments that disclosure requirements silence speech” and has continually upheld their constitutionality on the grounds that the public has a right to know who is influencing an election…
The DISCLOSE Act is part of the Democrats’ broader plan, called “A Better Deal for Our Democracy,” aimed at fixing the federal campaign finance system, improving elections, and strengthening ethics laws.
Filed Under: In the News
By Caroline Downey
June 30th marked the 60th anniversary of NAACP v. Alabama, the Supreme Court decision protecting citizens’ rights to free association as well as the right to privacy, including in political activity and affiliations…
The Cato Institute and the Institute for Free Speech jointly hosted a debate on June [28th] titled, “[NAACP v. Alabama after 60 Years: Should Associational Privacy Still Be Protected by the Constitution?],” featuring Bradley Smith of the Institute for Free Speech and former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, Lawrence Noble. The speakers re-examined the court decision and explained how it is still relevant today.
Smith argued that compulsory disclosure “chills” freedom of speech and association. The protestors that periodically appear on TV are a political minority; most Americans prefer to refrain from political engagement. Forced disclosure exacerbates political apathy even more. Without the protection of anonymity, potential activists and donors are disincentivized from participating in politics, largely because of the fear of backlash and retaliation. Few would choose to lose their jobs over their political affiliations. They’ll just leave the civic sphere instead…
Smith warned that many lawmakers are looking to expand invasive disclosure laws to a new realm: ideas. Meaning, non-profits that educate the public about political issues are the next target. As Smith wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
“Today legislators in at least 24 states have proposed expanding compulsory disclosure to include financial support for think tanks and other nonprofit groups. In other words, organizations like the NAACP.”
By Andrew Hamm
In reaction to President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, politicians and interest groups are releasing statements. SCOTUS Watch is tracking “the public statements made by United States senators about how they plan to vote.” This post tracks the statements by interest groups that we have received…
In support of the nominee: …
Institute for Free Speech (Bradley Smith, chairman and founder)
Filed Under: In the News