In the News Our Cases

Citizens Against Government Waste: California Cases Challenge Threats to Donor Privacy (In the News)

By Spencer Chretien
The federal Schedule B requirements are onerous and unnecessary. But they become outright dangerous when states try to commandeer them, which is exactly the scheme that California Attorney General Kamala Harris, now a U.S. Senator, and her successor as Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, have engineered. Under current rules, California forces any charity soliciting donations in the state to turn over its unredacted Schedule B form to the state. Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, filed suit in December 2014 claiming this requirement violated its First Amendment right to freedom of association. AFP Foundation donors have experienced harassment and intimidation by political opponents, so its situation represents an ideal opportunity for a legal challenge. The case has seesawed its way through the judiciary; on June 25, 2018, a panel of judges on the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard arguments on whether AFP Foundation is entitled to a permanent injunction against the requirement. The Institute for Free Speech, then known as the Center for Competitive Politics, filed a separate challenge to the Attorney General’s Schedule B demand in March 2014. The Institute’s case challenges the requirement for all organizations; AFP Foundation’s challenges the requirement as applied to AFP Foundation.
Regardless of what the 9th Circuit decides, this issue is likely to be settled eventually by the Supreme Court…
Until the Supreme Court decides to take up this issue once more, it will be necessary for nonprofit organizations and all concerned citizens to fight back against misguided attempts at “transparency” that chill speech, create a hostile environment for donors, and waste taxpayer dollars on maintaining lists of those who hold certain views and interests.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

Meriden Record-Journal: Markley, Sampson continue to fight SEEC fine after judge dismisses appeal (In the News)

By Mike Savino
Republican lawmakers Joe Markley and Rob Sampson continue to fight fines resulting from a 2014 election complaint, and are considering a federal lawsuit just as their 2018 campaigns are about to hit high gear. 
Markley and Sampson said Friday they are working with the Institute for Free Speech on a federal lawsuit challenging the State Elections Enforcement Commission’s interpretation of a state law requiring a candidate to only use campaign funds to further their own election. 
Separately, the two politicians also plan to appeal a New Britain Superior Court judge’s Aug. 2 decision… 
The SEEC in February imposed fines of $5,000 for Sampson and $2,000 for Markley after determining that in 2014 they improperly funded ads that included Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The SEEC determined that Sampson and Markley should have sought payment from Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley…
Judge Joseph M. Shortfall dismissed the appeal, though, saying Sampson and Markley took longer than the allowed 45 days to file it. Agencies have 25 days to act on a request to reconsider, after which time the request is automatically rejected. 
Sampson and Markley filed their request on February 14, but the SEEC failed to take action until March 23. Shortfall said the request was automatically rejected in early March, when the 25-day window came and went, meaning Sampson and Markley had until late April to file their appeal. 
They maintain that the March 23 decision should start the clock…
[T]he two are also working with IFS on a federal lawsuit in hopes of getting a federal judge to stop SEEC from imposing its interpretation of the law. 

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

CT Post: Joe Markley election violation case appeal dismissed (In the News)

By Emilie Munson
A Superior Court judge on Friday dismissed the case of two Republican lawmakers who are fighting thousands in fines for campaign finance violations dating back to 2014.
Judge Joseph M. Shortall in New Britain ruled that state Sen. Joe Markley and state Rep. Rob Sampson did not file their appeal of the State Elections Enforcement Commission’s denial of their petition within 45 days, as required by state statute…
Markley said the pair plan to continue fighting the case and have not yet paid the fines.
“I don’t agree with the judge’s decision,” Markley said. “We’ve got many alternative avenues.”
Markley disagreed with the judge as to when the clock started ticking in the petition process and, according to Markley’s assessment of the timeline, their appeal was filed on time.
The SEEC decided their 2014 campaign mailers – which the Republican duo split the cost of -were an effort to help Republican Tom Foley’s challenge to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2014. The SEEC ruled in February that the mailers, which criticized Malloy, were illegal expenditures on behalf of Foley, who would have had to share the cost of the mailers…
“We simply don’t believe we were wrong,” Markley said Friday. “And we want to establish the principle that the policies of the sitting governor are a fair topic of campaign conversation.” …
Markley and Sampson were represented by Allen Dickerson of the Alexandria, Va-based Institute for Free Speech and Michael Cronin, a legal advisor for Senate Republicans.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

Morning Consult: Eliminate Schedule B to Protect Public Debate (In the News)

By Brian Garst
Schedule B requires 501(c) organizations to include certain contributors’ names and addresses with their annual Form 990 reports. Yet the IRS has acknowledged that this information has no enforcement value. Instead, its collection creates opportunities for abuse and chills speech and civic participation.
Like the secret ballot, respecting donor privacy and thus anonymous speech and association is essential to prevent majoritarian abuse and intimidation that subverts democracy. This was a lesson learned in the civil rights era after the shameful attacks on the NAACP and its supporters.
Although officials pledge to keep the collected information confidential, there’s good reason to question the ability of the government to protect sensitive taxpayer information given the history of inadvertent disclosures and information leaks at the IRS…
For minority viewpoints, public exposure can lead to intimidation or other private consequences. We saw this when Brendan Eich was forced out as Mozilla CEO after it was revealed he donated in support of California Prop 8.
Not long after that, an effort by then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris to collect donor information was found to be unconstitutional as applied to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Thomas More Law Center, though a similar challenge by the [Institute for Free Speech] failed. In ruling on the Thomas More Law Center challenge, the district court found that “in the context of a proven and substantial history of inadvertent disclosures,” the state’s government could not assure donor confidentiality.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

Connecticut Post: Duo of state lawmakers fight election fines (In the News)

By Ken Dixon
State Sen. Joe Markley of Southington and Rep. Rob Sampson of Wolcott were ordered this spring to pay $2,000 and $5,000 fines respectively, for what the State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled was an effort to help Republican Tom Foley’s challenge to Malloy.
Now, the Alexandria, Va-based Institute for Free Speech has agreed to pursue the case in state Superior Court along with Mike Cronin, a legal adviser for Senate Republicans.
“Talking about our opinions of the governor is almost essential campaign speech,” Markley said in a Tuesday interview. “The case, on a certain level, makes people scratch their heads.”
Markley, who won the state GOP endorsement for lieutenant governor last month, said the fines are an “unreasonable barrier to political speech.”
“This policy effectively bans candidates from speaking to voters about one of the most important responsibilities of the office they seek to hold – checking the power of the executive,” said Allen Dickerson, legal director of the non-profit institute…
[The SEEC] said that Sampson and Markley made illegal expenditures for Foley, who would have had to share the cost of the mailers…
Sampson, who is seeking Markley’s Senate seat, and the senator split the cost of mailers that, while highlighting their achievements in office, also mentioned Malloy’s tax hike and overall policies. Two more ads from Sampson mentioned the governor’s policies…
Markley recalled that about two dozen other Republican candidates had similar complaints against them and settled with the SEEC, but that in August, 2016, he and Sampson refused, and instead looked for support from First Amendment advocates.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases, Quotes IFS

CT News Junkie: Two Republicans Sue Election Regulators (In the News)

By Christine Stuart
Two Republican lawmakers are appealing the ruling of the State Elections Enforcement Commission in Superior Court saying that election regulators violated their free speech rights in 2014.
The State Elections Enforcement Commission fined Sen. Joe Markley $2,000 and Rep. Rob Sampson $5,000 for failing to get Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s opponent or their party to help pay for mailers attacking Malloy…
The Institute for Free Speech has agreed to take the case to court on behalf of Markley and Sampson…
“Just as candidates for Congress must be able to discuss the president, candidates for state legislature must be able to discuss the governor,” Institute for Free Speech Legal Director Allen Dickerson said. “Yet Connecticut law prevents candidates for the General Assembly from criticizing the governor’s policies in ads unless they first secure the approval and funding of one of the governor’s opponents. This policy effectively bans candidates from speaking to voters about one of the most important responsibilities of the office they seek to hold – checking the power of the executive.”
Markley and Sampson through their attorneys are asking the court to dismiss the fines and declare the law unconstitutional.
“Requiring legislative candidates to get permission and funding from a gubernatorial candidate in order to discuss the governor in campaign ads violates the First Amendment,” the two said in a press release.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases, Quotes IFS

Beacon Center of Tennessee: A Bad Sign For Free Speech in Tennessee (In the News)

By Braden H. Boucek
This sign belonged to a Memphis-area gentleman, Bill Thomas, who was perfectly within his rights to have a sign on this location. He actually owned the property and the State specifically allows the construction of billboards on-premises. Everything about this sign was by the book. Except for what it said. This violation of free speech is why we joined a case to support the legal effort to protect Mr. Thomas’ first amendment right to celebrate holiday cheer…
In Bill’s case, his sign was illegal solely because what it said. The State allows only a limited number of messages to be available for display on-premises. Advertising a business located on-site, for instance, would be allowed. So if the sign had advertised a restaurant on the property and read “Eat at Bill’s,” or if it was a “For Sale” sign he would have been fine. But he can’t wish you a Merry Christmas on the same sign that he could have advertised tires.
This is just completely upside down. The government should be getting out of the business of preferring different types of speech. But it really makes no sense to crack down on speech that is non-commercial in nature. Other signs the State banned encouraged supporting American Olympic athletes, and another sign critical of state officials who were enforcing these laws. American flags and pumpkins shouldn’t be banned on any sign that could contain an advertisement.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

Billboard Insider: Cato Calls Billboard Law Unconstitutional (In the News)

The Cato Institute and other conservative think tanks are supporting the legal attack on billboard law as unconstitutional infringement on free speech.
Cato, based in Washington, DC, filed an amicus brief on April 10 in a case called Thomas v. Schroer, which challenges Tennessee’s billboard controls.
“Tennessee’s statutory and regulatory framework for ‘billboards’ presents an irrational, unnecessary, and overly expansive restriction on the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and expression,” said Cato’s 21-page brief submitted to the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals…
The State of Tennessee defends its billboard law as a proper balance of regulation and respect for free speech. The US Department of Justice is supporting the state, along with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).
The plaintiff, William H. Thomas Jr, is represented by the Institute for Free Speech, based in Alexandria, VA.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

Cato: Hey Baby, What’s Your On-Premises Sign? (In the News)

Cato: Hey Baby, What’s Your On-Premises Sign? By Ilya Shapiro and Aaron Barnes Tennessee’s Billboard Regulation and Control Act of 1972 regulates roadside signs by imposing onerous restrictions as well as location and permit requirements. The statute also provides exemptions, particularly with regard to so-called “on-premises” signs. On-premises signs are those that either advertise activities that are […]

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

Good4Utah: Federal judge dismisses FEC case against John Swallow (In the News)

There were new developments in an investigation involving former Utah Attorney General John Swalllow and businessman Jeremy Johnson.
Friday, a federal judge struck down a regulation by the Federal Election Commission, dismissing the commission’s lawsuit against the two.
At issue was the FEC’s regulation that expands liability for contributions made through straw donors. A straw donor is a person who illegally uses another person’s money to make a political contribution in their own name.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

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