Institute for Free Speech Chairman and Founder Bradley A. Smith discussed the fundamental importance of safeguarding Americans’ ability to speak freely at a House of Representatives Committee on House Administration hearing on May 11.
The hearing, “American Confidence in Elections: Protecting Political Speech,” covered a variety of topics central to the issue of defending Americans’ right to political speech. In particular, the hearing concerned the American Confidence in Elections Act (ACE). The proposed legislation offers a range of reforms to strengthen political speech protections, including specific measures aimed at the Internal Revenue Service, as well as provisions related to campaign finance restrictions.
“Campaign finance is fundamentally different from most government regulation in the sense that it concerns the heart of democratic self-governance,” Smith said, going on to explain why simplifying and modernizing regulations would ease burdens on ordinary Americans that currently impact their ability to engage in political speech.
Smith also highlighted the importance of donor privacy, noting that “Free societies thrive on the public exchange of ideas. The First Amendment protects not only the brave, but it also protects the meek, the weak, and minorities of all kinds.”
He added that support for a cause, even if the support is in the form of a small donation, can generate retribution—sometimes years later. This danger underscores the need for strong donor privacy protections. Without such protections, many Americans may be discouraged from speaking in the first place for fear of negative consequences.
Video of Smith’s opening statement, as well as video of the entire hearing, may be viewed below: