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

Salt Lake Tribune: A federal judge tosses the final case against John Swallow, ending years of court disputes against the former Utah attorney general (In the News)

By Stephen Hunt and Tiffany Caldwell
Benson wrote in his ruling that the case against Swallow “only charges him with secondary liability and that Congress clearly did not include a ban against secondary actors in the [Federal Election Campaign] Act.”
The judge said the FEC “went too far” when it imposed liability under the Federal Election Campaign Act on secondary actors – “exceeding its authority to write regulations and improperly intruding into the realm of law-making that is the exclusive province of Congress.” …
Benson “deserves a lot of credit for having the courage to strike down what he viewed as an unconstitutional regulation,” Swallow said. “That’s very rare, when judges do that.”
Allen Dickerson, one of Swallow’s attorneys and the legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, said in a Friday email: “The Federal Election Commission’s brazen attempt to supplant Congress was rightly rejected by the court. Unelected commissioners cannot act outside of the law to punish conduct they deem inappropriate.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for separation of powers and secures the rights of all Americans to discuss and participate in campaign fundraising.”

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

U.S. News & World Report: Lawsuit Dismissal Ends Prosecution of Former Utah AG Swallow (In the News)

By Ken Ritter and Lindsay Whitehurst, Associated Press
“This marks the last action by the government against me and we have won at every turn,” Swallow said in an email hailing U.S. District Judge Dee Benson’s 10-page decision…
Benson ruled that Congress makes election laws, and that the election commission “went too far” in adopting rules imposing liability on “secondary actors” making campaign contributions.
The judge compared the allegations to a basketball player earning an “assist” for passing to another player who makes a basket, although “the player who made the assist cannot fairly be considered to be the person who made the basket.” …
Commission attorney Sana Chaudhry argued last month that the campaign limit rule was part of the FEC’s broad authority to regulate elections.
Allen Dickerson, legal director of the Virginia-based Institute for Free Speech, said Friday, that, “unelected commissioners” can’t supplant Congress to punish conduct they deem inappropriate…
The FEC action could have left Swallow facing thousands of dollars in fines.

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

Deseret News: Judge dismisses FEC complaint against ex-Utah A.G. John Swallow (In the News)

By Dennis Romboy
Attorney Allen Dickerson contended the law is silent on secondary liability – the practice of holding one party legally responsible for helping another – for the type of campaign finance violation Swallow allegedly committed.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson agreed…
It is illegal under federal law for a person to donate funds to a federal candidate through another person or allow their name be used to contribute to a candidate. It also is against the law for a candidate to accept a contribution made in the name of another person.
The law applies to only three types of people, and Swallow was not one them, Dickerson argued.
“The FEC’s authority exists no further than the boundaries of the law it was created to enforce,” Benson wrote in a 10-page decision…
Benson struck the rule from the code of federal regulations and barred the FEC from enforcing it.
Dickerson said Benson rightly rejected the FEC’s “brazen” attempt to supplant federal law.
“Unelected commissioners cannot act outside of the law to punish conduct they deem inappropriate,” he said, adding the ruling secures the rights of all Americans to discuss and participate in campaign fundraising.

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

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