By Ashley Balcerzak and John Dunbar
David Keating, then-executive director of the conservative Club for Growth, founded SpeechNow.org to “call out” politicians he saw as trampling on the public’s First Amendment rights in the wake of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation, he said…
[I]n February 2008, SpeechNow.org sued the Federal Election Commission, arguing large donations to fund independent political activity are protected under the First Amendment. The District of Columbia Circuit Court decision in the SpeechNow case – predicated on the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC – led to the creation of super PACs…
Keating is now the president of the conservative Institute for Free Speech, formerly known as the Center for Competitive Politics, a group that is currently bringing at least five cases dealing with First Amendment infringement…
The Center for Competitive Politics, now called the Institute for Free Speech, describes itself as the “the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political speech rights.” It was founded in 2005 by Bradley Smith, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Smith is the chairman. The organization is a prolific litigator and advocates for limited regulation of money in politics. It fights regularly to preserve donor anonymity.
Center for Public Integrity: The players who have shaped campaign finance over the decades (In the News)
By Ashley Balcerzak and John Dunbar
Center for Public Integrity: Kochs key among small group quietly funding legal assault on campaign finance regulation (In the News)
By Lateshia Beachum
The [Institute for Free Speech] has waged war against the FEC as litigators, and it has represented others when political free speech is under attack.
David Keating, president of the [Institute for Free Speech], said the organization is simply honoring the guarantees of the First Amendment more so than political ideology or deregulation…
“Our country didn’t have campaign contribution limits until the 1970s,” he said. “I don’t see there’s any evidence that it’s made people we’re electing better than they were before the 1970s.”
Keating said government should make it easier for average citizens to become politically involved and, therefore, it should rethink contribution laws.
While the [Institute for Free Speech] has not objected to disclosure by candidates and PACs, it is not in favor of pushing for more disclosure. Doing so, said Keating, would result in more difficult fundraising for groups and misleading disclosure information.
“Disclosure is where a lot of the action is right now,” he said. “That’s going to be in the courts and we may well be the ones representing the plaintiffs.”
By A. Barton Hinkle
When conservative or libertarian groups support a Republican candidate, it’s proof that the candidate is “in the pocket of” powerful and nefarious interests who have “bought and paid for” her support. When liberal or progressive groups contribute to a Democratic candidate, it’s proof that the candidate’s principled stand on important issues has earned the support of ordinary people who share his values…
For liberals and progressives, Northam did the right thing on Tuesday: He won. Which means all the money he spent, and all the money spent by others to elect him, is nothing to get upset about. As Bradley Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission who now runs the Institute for Free Speech, wrote several years ago: “Nobody on the left really believes what they always say about campaign contributions and spending. … The ‘reformers’ do not believe money is corrupting. Rather, they believe that their political opponents are corrupt.”
And big money in politics poses no threat to democracy – so long as the right team wins.
As tech titans reckon with disruptive foreign interference, Congress debates the Honest Ads Act, aimed at exposing invidious overseas actors. Eric Wang (Institute for Free Speech) argues the legislation would mostly target Americans exercising constitutionally-protected political speech.
People’s Pundit Daily: Analysis: “Honest Ads Act” Is Dishonest; It Targets Americans, Not Foreign Influence (In the News)
By PPD Elections Staff
[A]n analysis of the so-called “Honest Ads Act” finds the bill does almost nothing to regulate foreign interference in U.S. elections. Instead, it predominantly targets Americans and would impose broad-based, restrictions and regulations on Americans’ free speech rights.
“Legislation that responds to foreign meddling by regulating the speech of Americans will not limit foreign influence in American political campaigns,” said Eric Wang, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Free Speech, which conducted the analysis. “Worse, it will impede the ability of Americans to use their own speech to call out and expose ‘fake news’ and propaganda.”
While the Institute for Free Speech says they’re “deeply disturbed” by the efforts of Russia and other hostile foreign actors, the legislation will undermine our democracy, not secure it. It will advance Vladimir Putin’s agenda, not derail it, by sowing further division and “placing considerable limits and burdens on the online political speech of Americans.”
An overwhelming 99.99% of the online political ads regulated by the bill will be purchased by Americans, while ads purchased by foreigners represent less than 0.01%.
Morning Consult: FEC Commissioner Says Agency Limited in Ability to Regulate Online Political Ads (In the News)
By Edward Graham
Bradley Smith, a former Republican FEC commissioner from 2000 to 2005 and the chairman and founder of the Institute for Free Speech, agreed that the agency is limited in the steps it could take to address online ads…
“I think [the FEC is] very limited on what they can do, and this is one of the points too when we talk about $100,000 in advertising – a lot of that is stuff that would not actually be subject to FEC regulation, because it was done outside the window of electioneering communication,” Smith said in a Wednesday phone interview. “It’s not express advocacy, so, again, there would be big limits on what the FEC could require there.”
Smith called the Honest Ads Act “sort of your classic overreaction” to reports that Russian-linked groups spent approximately $100,000 on political ads on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election cycle, saying that the amount spent was just a drop in the bucket compared to total political spending.
“People don’t like the idea, understandably so, that Russians are trying to meddle in our elections or turn us against each other,” Smith said. “It just seems odd that the result is, now that we know that, we’re nonetheless letting ourselves turn against each other and starting to regulate our freedoms away and so on. It’s just not an appropriate response.”
CBC News: ‘Not going to be a cakewalk’: Social media sites face hurdles curbing foreign political ads (In the News)
By Mark Gollom
Some of the ads that ran this election on social media sites mentioned the candidates but were not expressly election ads, said Richard Hasen, a political science and law professor at the University of California at Irvine. And many of them appeared to be neither election ads nor ads mentioning candidates…
Hasen also said it’s not clear whether the restrictions on electioneering communication by foreign entities apply on digital-only platforms.
“It appears, from what little we know, most of these ads would not be illegal under current U.S. law.”
To address this, a bill named the “Honest Ads Act” has been drafted by two Democratic senators and has received support from Republican Sen. John McCain…
The Institute for Free Speech said the bill fails “to meaningfully address foreign interference while placing considerable limits and burdens on the online political speech of Americans.”
“Legislation that attempts to limit foreign interference in our democracy by broadly regulating the free speech rights of Americans would, in fact, undermine our democracy and directly advance Vladimir Putin’s agenda,” wrote Eric Wang of the institute.
By Jennifer Smola
In most debates involving First Amendment matters on campus, administrators say they are weighing free speech rights versus campus safety. And they’re arriving at sometimes differing conclusions. The University of Cincinnati and Ohio State each received requests and subsequent legal threats to let Spencer speak on campus. While Ohio State repeatedly denied the request and is now facing a federal lawsuit, Cincinnati said it would “uphold the First Amendment and allow Richard Spencer to speak on campus.” …
The only legal argument Ohio State might be able to present is that Spencer’s speech incites violence, and therefore is not protected by the First Amendment, said Tokaji and Capital University Law School professor Bradley A. Smith.
“I don’t think the school could say, ‘We don’t like what Richard Spencer stands for,'” said Smith, chairman and co-founder of the Institute for Free Speech in Alexandria, Virginia. “But they could say ‘we’re not concerned about Richard Spencer coming here per se, we’re concerned that the things he will say … would constitute fighting words that would lead to imminent violence.'”
That still could be difficult to prove, Smith and Tokaji agreed. It’s not enough that Spencer’s words might upset people, they said. Ohio State would have to prove that he specifically says things that cause violence – such as urging his listeners to burn down a building, for example.
Wall Street Journal: Proposed Legislation to Boost Online-Ad Disclosures Draws Criticism (In the News)
By Julie Bykowicz
Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) introduced a bill last week that proposed online disclosure and reporting requirements for any political entity that spends more than $500 in a given year on a platform that has a major audience…
“The idea that we’re going to allow a group of regulators, a group of bureaucrats to regulate what we will be able to see in terms of social media or other formats offends me and I will certainly oppose that in any way I can,” Rep. Paul Mitchell (R., Mich.) said at a hearing this week about online advertising.
David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which advocates for less campaign finance-regulation, said Mr. Warner’s plan is “basically a campaign finance bill taking advantage of the controversy of Russian speech in our election cycle.”
He said it would make it tougher for Americans to participate in politics by potentially increasing the cost of social-media advertising that small groups use as online companies may pass on the costs of the mandated screening…
The FEC has reopened its comment period on rules for online advertising-something it has largely avoided regulating over the years.
By Nick Budnick
Written by the county’s charter review committee with input from local activists, the measure was designed to conflict with Supreme Court rulings on both the state and federal level, giving activists a path to revive campaign contribution limits in Oregon and the entire country through the appeals process.
In April, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners started that process, voting to forward the measure to a judge for constitutional validation. County attorneys filed a brief supporting the campaign reforms.
In August, Multnomah Circuit Judge Eric Bloch heard arguments over the measure. Business groups including the Portland Business Alliance argued against it, citing past court rulings, and so did the Taxpayers Association of Oregon – the latter in conjunction with a Virginia-based group called the Center for Competitive Politics…
“The plain fact is that these very regulations have been tried before, these same arguments routinely made, and both have been repeatedly rejected by the highest courts. This court has no discretion to revisit those decisions,” contended two attorneys for the Virginia center, Owen Yeates and Allen Dickerson.