Advocacy Groups: Made from Love

Another day, another accusation about paid protesters. As the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process moved to its final stages, President Trump took to Twitter to accuse those protesting Kavanaugh’s confirmation of being “paid professionals.” The myth of ready-to-go, paid-for protesters as the people who show up for any particular political cause has been thoroughly debunked over […]

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Advocacy Nonprofits, Kavanaugh, Protests

Washington Examiner: When it matters most, Americans can’t speak freely right before Election Day (In the News)

By Eric Peterson
Oppose or support the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it seems everyone has an opinion about him. Yet at this crucial time when the public wants to speak their minds and be heard by their elected officials, obscure regulations stand in their way.
Because Election Day is now less than 60 days away, something called “electioneering communication” regulations add red tape for groups that urge citizens to contact any senator up for election in November.
Any other time, speakers can mention a lawmaker’s name in radio or TV ads and urge them how to vote on key issues. No paperwork, just free speech.
Of course, other rules apply for ads that urge the election or defeat of candidates. Advertisements like “Vote against Jane Doe” or “Support Representative Jones” are regulated as election campaign expenditures every day of the year.
Electioneering communication regulations trigger burdensome government reporting requirements. These kick in when an expenditure is made “for the purpose of furthering” a communication that mentions a candidate for federal office. The reports require that any donation to a group for that communication be disclosed to the public. This means paperwork for those who wish to speak. It also means violating the privacy of their supporters. Many simply choose to remain silent…
As the controversy around Kavanaugh shows, the business of governing doesn’t just stop when candidates hit the campaign trail. When major issues are being decided, everyone should be free to speak their mind to those making the decisions, even if that includes mentioning a lawmaker who is up for re-election.
Electioneering communication requirements silence speech on key issues when it matters most. In the name of informed citizenship and freedom of speech, we should make these restrictions a thing of the past.

Filed Under: Eric Peterson, In the News, Published Articles

“Dark Money” Documentary Warns Viewers of the Dangers of Postcards

Earlier this week, PBS aired the documentary, Dark Money. The film is directed and produced by Kimberly Reed, previously known for her autobiographical documentary, Prodigal Sons. Reed’s newest film again points the camera at her home state of Montana. In Dark Money, she spins a hyperbolic and misleading tale of so-called “dark money” polluting the […]

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Money in Politics, Dark Money, Political Spending, Montana

When You Have to Dine and Dash

When was the last time you had to abruptly leave a restaurant? Whatever the reason, chances are it wasn’t because protestors arrived unannounced and interrupted your meal. Yet, this seems to be a growing occurrence for many elected officials, as the number of incidents of their everyday activities being interrupted has spiked. Senator Ted Cruz […]

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Associational Privacy, Donor Privacy, Harassment, Protests, Ted Cruz

Can Free Speech be Progressive? Only if Progressives Speak Freely.

A recent event at the Cato Institute examined the controversial question, “Can Free Speech be Progressive?” The query was posed by professor Louis Michael Seidman of Georgetown University Law Center in his recent article for the Columbia Law Review. This paper is another in a series of articles and op-eds questioning the value of free […]

Filed Under: Blog, Cato Institute, First Amendment, Internet Speech, John Samples, Louis Michael Seidman, Progressivism, Robert Bauer, Ronald K. L. Collins

National Review: The Internet Doesn’t Need a Fairness Doctrine (In the News)

By Eric Peterson
The Fairness Doctrine was first introduced by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949. It required broadcasters “to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance.” …
Presidential administrations from Kennedy to Nixon used the Fairness Doctrine to maximum effect. The administration could use the doctrine to demand equal air time any time one of the president’s policies was criticized. This not only allowed the president nearly endless opportunities to express his viewpoint, but took time away from his opposition. Eventually, wary of the burdensome government demands, many stations simply stopped airing political commentary altogether.
As one member of the Johnson administration put it: “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.” …
Today, many on the right seem to want a Fairness Doctrine for the Internet. Creating one would demean one of Reagan’s great achievements and give government yet another tool to crack down on its critics.
While President Trump may not like CNN coverage or Google search results of his name, granting the government the power to control search results is asking for a whole host of unintended consequences…
The freedom and choice the Internet provides have allowed for an explosion of different opinions and content available to people around the world. Empowering the government to provide “balance” is not only impractical, but a mistake that could massively backfire – likely against the very people pushing for it.

Filed Under: Eric Peterson, In the News, Published Articles

Washington Examiner: Baltimore has bigger needs than taxpayer money for political campaigns (In the News)

By Eric Peterson
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh signed two charter amendments, cementing their appearance on the November ballot. One of these measures would provide politicians with tax dollars for their political campaigns…
The specifics of the program are still undefined…
But even without the details, every council member and the mayor are for some reason certain this is a great idea…
All involved seemed unfazed by the only speaker opposing the bill, the Baltimore City Department of Finance. The department’s representative warned that the city is projecting a shortfall of revenue, has massive unfunded liabilities, and the highest taxes in Maryland. In light of this situation, the department suggested that there was little public money to put aside to fund political campaigns.
This advice was summarily ignored.
Perhaps ignoring the department’s recommendation would be worthwhile if proponents’ claims about the program were based on evidence instead of rhetoric. Solving issues from corruption to dirty water surely would be worth the hefty price tag. But the results from other cities with tax-funded campaign programs provides no evidence supporters’ claims are true.
New York City has one of the oldest, and most expensive, public financing programs in the country, and little to show for it, other than a large tax bill.
Take, for example, the most recent mayoral general election, where Bill de Blasio cruised to his second term as mayor, winning more than 66 percent of the vote. Still, de Blasio convinced the City’s Campaign Finance Board that he was facing more than “minimal opposition” and qualified for 6-to-1 matching funds despite the program failing to produce a worthwhile challenger. De Blasio received more than $2 million from the city’s coffers in the primary alone.

Filed Under: Eric Peterson, In the News, Published Articles

Social Media Platforms are Censoring Everyone, Not Just Conservatives

Over the weekend, President Trump took to Twitter to complain about social media companies censoring conservatives. The President also declared that his administration would not let this supposed censorship continue. It’s unclear what prompted this latest string of tweets, but the President’s tweets reflect the attitude of many on the political right. The view that […]

Filed Under: Blog, Ad Verification, Facebook, Internet Speech Regulation, Issue Advocacy, Social Media

Be on the Lookout: Four Red Flags in Bills that Will Chill Online Speech

PDF available here The Internet and social media outreach are more important than ever to campaigns. As a result, legislators face a temptation to regulate this growing medium. Those favoring more speech regulation are now seizing on reports of Russian Facebook ad buys as justification for passing strict laws regulating online speech. But these ads […]

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure Handouts, Disclosure State, Internet Speech Regulation, Social Media

Facebook’s Free Speech Paradox

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has come under fire for comments in a recent interview on the technology podcast, Recode Decode. During the interview, Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s practice of not removing content that is blatantly false. In defense of this practice, Zuckerberg articulated his belief that Facebook shouldn’t become an arbiter of truth. Zuckerberg’s and Facebook’s […]

Filed Under: Blog, Facebook, Internet Speech Regulation, Mark Zuckerberg, Political Advertising, Social Media

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