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Washington Examiner: FEC ‘compromise’ could threaten free speech online (In the News)

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.

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

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.

Filed Under: In the News, Published Articles, Scott Blackburn

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.

Filed Under: In the News, Quotes IFS

PR Watch: Democrats Reintroduce DISCLOSE Act to Combat Dark Money “Poison” (In the News)

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

Capital Research Center: Required Donor Disclosure: A Threat to the First Amendment (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.”

Filed Under: In the News, Quotes IFS

SCOTUSblog: Reactions to the Kavanaugh nomination (In the News)

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

Ballot Access News: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Chosen for U.S. Supreme Court, has Sparse but Bad Record on Voting Rights (In the News)

By Richard Winger
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, has had few voting rights cases. In Libertarian Party v District of Columbia Board of Elections, he voted to uphold the action of D.C. election officials who refused to count write-in votes for Bob Barr, 2008 Libertarian nominee, even though Barr was a declared write-in candidate. The decision, signed by Kavanaugh, said it was good enough that D.C. counted the total number of all write-ins cast for President, without specifying how many were received by any particular candidate. Barr was the only declared write-in presidential candidate in D.C. that year.
Judge Kavanaugh has also generally upheld campaign finance restrictions. Here is a summary of his involvement in those cases, by the Institute for Free Speech.

Filed Under: In the News

St. Augustine Record: Limit campaign donations: Do you agree or not? (In the News)

By Editorial Board
Sunday, The Record published a front page story titled “Big money flows to County Commission race.” …
Judging from limited reader comments following the story, the general consensus here is that big contributions taint the electoral process… 
But there are those who’d disagree. The institute for Free Speech recently assembled what it calls a “Free Speech Index.” It is predicated on the assumption that constrictions on campaign spending are a bad thing for the country for two reasons: Finance restrictions muzzle free speech, and they tend to protect incumbents, “while hobbling newcomers.”
It looked at 19 factors aligned under five categories: the ability of individuals to give political candidates, parties and political action committees; the ability of political parties to support their candidates; the ability of PACs to give to candidates and parties; the ability of unions and corporations to donate to candidates; and indexing contribution limits to inflation.
The five “best” states for unfettered campaign finance are Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah and Virginia. All received a grade of “A” because they have zero limitations on campaign giving or spending.
Eleven states received an “F” grade; Kentucky and West Virginia were at the bottom of the barrel.
Florida received a “C.” It was consistent in that, within the five categories, it was ranked no higher than 24th or no lower than 28th.

Filed Under: In the News, Quotes IFS

Overlawyered: Awaiting a Supreme Court nominee (In the News)

By Walter Olson
The White House has indicated that President Trump will announce a nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy Monday evening. Jonathan Adler breaks it all down at Volokh Conspiracy as does David Lat in a series of posts (sample: feeder judge Brett Kavanaugh “sends clerks to almost all the justices, on both sides of the aisle.”) Other resources while we wait:
Factually rich cheat sheet with links to writings and opinions of judges thought to be on the list [TIFIS]
The New Civil Liberties Alliance has evaluated the likely picks on the basis of their posture toward the powers of the administrative state. Chris Walker at the Yale Journal on Regulation examines related issues of their views on administrative law. And the Institute for Free Speech on records on free expression…

Filed Under: In the News, Quotes IFS

Concurring Opinions: FAN 195.1 (First Amendment News) Institute for Free Speech Releases the Free Speech Records of Judges on Trump’s Short List (In the News)

The Institute for Free Speech has just released The Free Speech Records of Judges on Trump’s Short List.
Here is the introduction to its study:
“With Justice Anthony Kennedy retiring, President Trump has a second opportunity to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court.”
“As with the the previous nomination, the Institute for Free Speech seeks to analyze the records of potential nominees to educate the public on where these justices stand on First Amendment issues.”
The “Institute for Free Speech analyses on the free speech records of some of the judges on President Trump’s list of potential nominees. The Institute for Free Speech will continue to update this page with additional analyses until a nominee is named.”

Filed Under: In the News, Quotes IFS

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