Legal Newsline: Newspapers fight Md. law on political ads; Attorney said lawmakers ‘didn’t care’ about free speech concerns (In the News)

Legal Newsline: Newspapers fight Md. law on political ads; Attorney said lawmakers ‘didn’t care’ about free speech concerns

By Carrie Salls

Newspapers like the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun filed a lawsuit Aug. 17 against the members of the Maryland State Board of Elections and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, challenging a new state law that imposes strict guidelines on publishers that publish political advertisements.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland and joining the Post and Sun are several other publishers, as well as the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association.

“This action challenges multiple provisions of a newly enacted Maryland statute, the Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act, that purport to impose new, onerous requirements upon online publishers like plaintiffs who publish political advertising, along with various penalties if they do not comply,” the complaint said…

Wiley Rein LLP attorney Eric Wang is not in favor of Maryland’s law, which he said was supposed to serve as a guide for other states.

“If the new Maryland law was meant to be a model for other states to regulate online political speech, as its sponsors claimed, then we are not off to a good start,” Wang told Legal Newsline. “The law put politics ahead of good policy and was rushed through the legislature with little understanding of its provisions or its practical implications.”

Wang said he wrote an analysis of Maryland’s legislation when it was still in bill form “warning about the bill’s serious deficiencies, but the members of the General Assembly didn’t care.”

“The newspaper companies have put together an aggressive and serious challenge to the law, and I hope they succeed,” he said.

In addition, Wang said he authored an op-ed “urging (Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan) to veto the bill.”

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.