Twitter Loses Round One in Lawsuit Challenging User Ban

Yesterday, a California judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges Twitter’s ban of one of its former users, the controversial Jared Taylor. I may write more on the case later, but the transcript of the ruling makes for pretty entertaining reading, as far as these things go. My understanding is the ruling is permanent. […]

Filed Under: Blog, Hurley v. Irish-American Gay Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston, Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, Taylor v. Twitter, Twitter, Unruh Civil Rights Act, Video, California

Comments to FEC on Rulemaking 2014-02 (Independent Expenditure Reporting)

PDF of letter available here Via Electronic Filing Robert M. Knop Assistant General Counsel Federal Election Commission 1050 First Street, NE Washington, DC 20463 RE: Regulation 2014-02 The Institute for Free Speech is pleased that the Federal Election Commission has issued this notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding independent expenditures by candidates and to allow […]

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Comments, Disclosure Federal, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, External Relations Comments and Testimony, Federal, Federal Comments and Testimony, Electioneering Communications, federal election commission, Independent Expenditures

Orlando Sentinel: Probable cause is not a bludgeon for the thought police (In the News)

By David Keating and Thomas Wheatley
When former U.S. Marine Corps officer Fane Lozman approached the lectern during a Riviera Beach City Council meeting to air his grievances as a citizen, he didn’t suspect he’d be hauled out in handcuffs.
Yet only a few seconds into his speech, that’s exactly what happened. His arrest triggered a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments last week. The case has important implications for citizen activists and journalists alike…
Now the court will decide whether probable cause for an arrest can stop such a retaliation claim.
For the sake of the freedoms of speech and press, the answer must be no. Instead, the court should consider the presence of probable cause holistically without automatically extinguishing a First Amendment claim.
Granting probable cause such weight gives government a powerful tool to punish critics. With so many laws on the books, it is often easy to find probable cause for an arrest…
Of course, none of this is to say that probable cause should never defeat a First Amendment retaliation claim. But it shouldn’t disqualify it. Let’s hope the court recognizes this and sides with Lozman.

Filed Under: David Keating, In the News, Published Articles, Thomas Wheatley

Letter in Support of H.R. 4916 (“Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act”)

PDF of letter available here The Honorable Kevin Brady The Honorable Richard Neal Dear Chairman Brady, Ranking Member Neal, and Members of the House Ways and Means Committee: The Institute for Free Speech[1] writes in support of H.R. 4916, the “Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act.” The measure, sponsored by Representative Peter Roskam […]

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Comments, External Relations Comments and Testimony, Federal Comments and Testimony, IRS and the Tea Party, Form 990, H.R. 4916, Peter Roskam, Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, Schedule B

Washington Post: D.C.’s Fair Elections Act would give more power to the powerful (In the News)

By David Keating and Thomas Wheatley
The so-called Fair Elections Act of 2017, a measure that would provide a five-to-one tax financing match to small-dollar donations to D.C. candidates, cleared committee this month. The sponsor markets the proposal as “giving more people a bigger voice.”
That’s nonsense. The bill proposes a grand experiment with unpredictable impact. There’s a good chance that it will turbocharge the power of special-interest groups in D.C. campaigns, giving fewer interests a dominant voice. It also could incentivize fraud, which could lead to a collapse of public confidence.
The proposal is biased in favor of a new form of special PAC. The fine print allows for allocations from labor unions to count as contributions from individuals, and thus may be considered small-dollar donations. The provision not-so-subtly prohibits similar contributions from partnerships and small-business owners. The D.C. ACLU noted “labor unions do not have greater First Amendment rights than other kinds of organizations.” But the potential constitutional defect remains.

Filed Under: David Keating, In the News, Published Articles, Thomas Wheatley

The Hill: Facebook and the new Red Scare (In the News)

By David Keating and Paul Jossey
Various interests have seized on Russian chicanery to push “reforms” lacking priority in less neurotic times. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter seeking new rules for online ads. The resulting bill would burden internet speech with suffocating rules, even possibly banning some forms of online speech. Instead of hitting the Russians, the bill instead targets American speech, press and assembly rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. In short, despite the dearth of candidate references in the Russian ads, there is already a rush to chill the world’s most dynamic speech forum…
In the rush to respond, we have to remember the most important values, which are our rights to freely speak, publish, listen, read and watch. That’s the real risk of an irrational response, whether the threats come from new laws or more speech cops at Facebook…
The government should focus on ensuring that our voting machinery is safe from foreign hackers. Protection is also needed to prevent foreign agents from stealing internal candidate campaign communications. But when the issue is speech, we must exercise great caution lest zeal to curb foreign influence instead damages our own free speech rights.

Filed Under: David Keating, In the News, Paul Jossey, Published Articles

Letter in Support of Repeal of the Internal Revenue Service’s Form 990, Schedule B

PDF of letter available here The Honorable Mitch McConnell The Honorable Paul Ryan Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, The Institute for Free Speech[1] writes in support of repeal of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Form 990, Schedule B requirement. Eliminating this mandate is a sensible and much-needed policy that would end the statutory […]

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Comments, External Relations Comments and Testimony, Federal Comments and Testimony, IRS and the Tea Party, Form 990, Schedule B

Seattle Times: Democracy vouchers: a flawed law (In the News)

Imagine a special tax was levied on newspapers to fund vouchers that people could use to buy Fox News Channel subscriptions. Would that impact free-press rights? 
The new lawsuit challenging Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” [“Suit challenges city vouchers for campaign contributions,” NWThursday, June 29] makes such hypotheticals worth pondering. 
The article on the lawsuit claims that “Under the complaint’s rationale, virtually any public financing of campaigns that relies on tax revenue would be impermissible.” 
But the lawsuit makes a more nuanced argument. The funding mechanism for this voucher program is unusual – a special property tax was levied to pay for it. The law does not allow that tax to be used for any other purpose. 
The voucher law allows the program to be funded from general city funds. But that option is not being used. The lawsuit hasn’t challenged the use of general funds. 
There are important First Amendment questions raised by the poorly drafted voucher law. Governments shouldn’t pass a special tax on a few to fund speech some oppose. 
Hopefully, the court will agree. 

Filed Under: David Keating, In the News, Published Articles

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: First Amendment gives advocacy groups a right to privacy (In the News)

By David Keating
Perhaps you want to limit the right of elected officials, like Eric Greitens, to raise money for advocacy groups. If so, tread carefully. And certainly don’t endorse new laws ensnaring groups independent of elected officials from forming and speaking out on public policy while ensuring their members keep their privacy.
In supporting privacy for these groups, the group I run does not stand alone. We stand with the Supreme Court. In NAACP v. Alabama, the court ruled that government can’t force nonprofits to turn over their membership lists. The justices warned that such disclosure “may constitute as effective a restraint on freedom of association as (other) forms of governmental action.”
In Talley v. California, the high court said disclosure requirements “would tend to restrict freedom to distribute information and thereby freedom of expression … fear of reprisal might deter peaceful discussions of public matters of importance.”
Such privacy rights related to speech also protect an independent media. Some elected officials want new laws to punish the press for publishing leaks or quoting anonymous sources. The media, including the Post-Dispatch, need to realize that the First Amendment gives it no more rights than citizens who form groups. Attacking citizen rights to free speech undermines the media’s rights to the same.

Filed Under: David Keating, In the News, Published Articles

Washington Examiner: The truth about Gorsuch’s record on ‘money in politics’ (In the News)

By David Keating & Luke Wachob
Democrats and progressives are losing their minds over President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. One left-wing advocacy group released a video titled “3 Reasons to Fear Judge Gorsuch.” Number one? According to them, if Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court, “our elections could be completely handed over to the powerful and the wealthy.”
That ludicrous statement refers to Gorsuch’s concurring opinion in Riddle v. Hickenlooper, a campaign finance case. Riddle challenged Colorado’s contribution limit law as discriminatory.
Was it ever! It allowed major party candidates to raise twice as much money as minor party candidates and independents. Progressives love to say “money isn’t speech,” but Riddle wasn’t about that. It was about equality…
Should progressives worry that Gorsuch may rule against them on campaign finance cases? Probably, given the type of restrictions they support on your free speech.
The silly Colorado law struck down by the court – they wrote it! Common Cause and like-minded groups seeking speech limits put it on the ballot. The goal? Getting money out of politics, of course.

Filed Under: David Keating, In the News, Luke Wachob, Published Articles

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