Joe Albanese

Allentown Morning Call: Pa. among top states that support free speech of campaign donors (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
The Institute’s Free Speech Index scores and ranks all 50 states on their laws governing political giving, grading them from A-plus to F. Fortunately, Pennsylvania ranked as one of the top states in the country, earning an A grade…
Pennsylvania’s high score is particularly notable given the poor performances of its neighbors. Bordering West Virginia and Maryland both receive an F, while Ohio and Delaware each earn a D. New York fares a little better, earning a C grade, but it still restricts most forms of political giving. Taking stock of the entire East Coast, only Virginia does as well as the Keystone State at protecting the freedom to support candidates and causes…
Capping the amount of money that a candidate’s supporters can donate makes it harder for political outsiders to break into a system dominated by entrenched incumbents.
Perhaps that is why recent calls to impose contribution limits in Pennsylvania have come from the governor’s residence. Gov. Tom Wolf has pushed for contribution limits as part of his plan to “reform” Pennsylvania politics. If he gets his way, democracy will become less vibrant in the state and voters will have less speech about candidates to inform their vote.

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Evansville Courier & Press: Indiana among top states for political speech rights (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
The Institute’s Free Speech Index scores and ranks all 50 states on their laws governing political giving, grading them from A+ to F. Fortunately, Indiana ranked as one of the top states in the country, earning an A grade. This places it alongside 10 other states that earned an ‘A’ or higher. One crucial trait these states have in common is that they don’t limit the freedom of individuals to give to candidates, parties, and political committees, as well as the ability of parties and political committees to give to candidates…
Why is it so important that states like Indiana allow freedom in political giving to and between these groups? Because the main effect of government-imposed restrictions on political giving is to limit the amount of speech individuals, organizations, and political actors can express. Giving money is not just a show of support. It also enables candidates and groups to spread their message further.
That means stringent campaign finance laws tend to favor incumbents and hinder challengers… 
Lawmakers in Indiana deserve praise for preserving their constituents’ First Amendment freedoms. Many politicians find it easier to pass laws that make it harder for voters or rival candidates to criticize them. They do so while claiming they are protecting voters from the rich, when really, they are protecting themselves.

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Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: Virginia ranked A+ for political free speech rights (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
Imagine that you lived in a state where it was illegal to express too much support for a candidate. Such a law would be a blatant violation of the First Amendment. The ability to support causes and candidates of one’s choice is key to participation in a democratic society.
Yet many states place limits on one of the most impactful ways to do so: donating money to campaigns and political groups.
For those without the time to work or volunteer in politics, this outlet is especially important. As a new Index from the Institute for Free Speech shows, state laws that limit contributions to such groups effectively restrict Americans’ First Amendment rights.
The Institute’s Free Speech Index scores and ranks all 50 states on their laws governing political giving, grading them from A+ to F. Fortunately, Virginia is ranked as one of the top states in the country, earning an A+ grade.
This places it alongside 10 other states that earned an ‘A’ or higher.
One crucial trait these states have in common is that they don’t limit the freedom of individuals to give to candidates, parties and political committees, or the ability of parties and political committees to give to candidates…
Giving money is not just a show of support. It also enables candidates and groups to spread their message further.

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San Antonio Express-News: Texas preserving political rights (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
The Institute’s Free Speech Index scores and ranks all 50 states on their laws governing political giving, grading them from A+ to F. Fortunately, Texas ranked among the top states, earning an A, one of 11 states earning an A or higher. One crucial trait these states share is that they don’t limit the freedom of individuals to give to candidates, parties and political committees, or the ability of parties and political committees to give to candidates.
Why is it so important that states allow freedom in political giving to and between these groups? Because the main effect of government-imposed restrictions on political giving is to limit the amount of speech individuals, organizations and political actors can express. Giving money is not just a show of support. It also enables candidates and groups to spread their message further…
Texas lawmakers deserve praise for preserving First Amendment freedoms. Many politicians find it easier to pass laws making it harder for voters or rival candidates to criticize them. They do so while claiming they are protecting voters from the rich when, really, they are protecting themselves. Texas is one of 11 states that has done an exemplary job of avoiding this trap. Hopefully, the Institute for Free Speech’s Index will shed light on how such states can continue producing pro-First Amendment policy – and will push others to do the same.

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Washington Examiner: The strangest scenes from Mark Zuckerberg’s Senate testimony on Facebook (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
The hearing was ostensibly about data privacy, but that subject (and the hearing’s more outlandish moments) are not the only reason Americans should care about Facebook. Zuckerberg’s exchanges with senators have important implications for political speech rights as well.
First, it’s worth noting the emerging consensus that the senators’ lines of questioning revealed startling ignorance about how Facebook even works. That hasn’t reduced their propensity to regulate that which they do not understand…
This ties into a crucial matter relating to free speech – the intermittent references to the so-called “Honest Ads Act,” which would impose regulations on broad swaths of political speech online. Senators like Tom Udall, D-N.M., did their best to connect the bill to Russian interference in U.S. elections. Despite this, by the sponsors’ own admission, the bill would restrict the 99.99 percent of online political ads purchased by Americans in order to address less than 0.01 percent purchased by foreigners in the 2016 cycle. The Internet is unique as an inexpensive and invaluable forum for allowing virtually anyone to express their viewpoints to the broader public. The Honest Ads Act would negate these benefits with burdensome reporting and disclaimer requirements. Even ads that are not targeted to the “relevant electorate” of an election would face these conditions, making the bill stricter than existing rules for large-scale TV and radio advertising.

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Lincoln Journal Star: Nebraska excels at allowing free political speech (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
Nebraska ranked as one of the top states in the country, earning an A-plus. This places it alongside 10 other states that earned an A or higher.
One crucial trait these states have in common is that they don’t limit the freedom of individuals to give to candidates, parties and political committees, as well as the ability of parties and political committees to give to candidates.
Nebraska ditched its limits in 2011 after then-Attorney General Jon Bruning concluded they were constitutionally dubious. Previously, the state had not limited the amount any one donor could provide to any one candidate, but did restrict the overall amount a candidate could receive from all committees, corporations, unions, associations and political parties.
Acting on Bruning’s advice, the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission ceased enforcing those limits. Now, Nebraska is one of several states with no restrictions on the freedom to support candidates and groups.

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Des Moines Register: Iowa should be applauded for political speech rights (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
The Institute’s Free Speech Index scores and ranks all 50 states on their laws governing political giving, grading them from A+ to F. Iowa ranked as one of the top states in the country, earning an A grade. This places it alongside 10 other states that earned an A or higher. One crucial trait these states have in common is that they don’t limit the freedom of individuals to give to candidates, parties and political committees, as well as the ability of parties and political committees to give to candidates.
Why is it so important that states like Iowa allow freedom in political giving to and between these groups? Because the main effect of government-imposed restrictions on political giving is to limit the amount of speech individuals, organizations and political actors can express. Giving money is not just a show of support. It also enables candidates and groups to spread their message…
Many politicians find it easier to pass laws that make it harder for voters or rival candidates to criticize them. They do so while claiming they are protecting voters from the rich, when they are actually protecting themselves. Iowa is one of 11 states that have done an exemplary job of avoiding this trap. Hopefully, the Institute for Free Speech’s Index will shed light on how such states can continue producing pro-First Amendment policy – and will push others to do the same.

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Salt Lake Tribune: Utah ranks high on list of free-speech states (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
The Institute’s Free Speech Index scores and ranks all 50 states on their laws governing political giving, grading them from A+ to F. Fortunately, Utah ranked as one of the top states in the country, earning an A+ grade. This places it alongside 10 other states that earned an ‘A’ or higher.
One crucial trait these states have in common is that they don’t limit the freedom of individuals to give to candidates, parties and political committees, as well as the ability of parties and political committees to give to candidates.
Why is it so important that states like Utah allow freedom in political giving to and between these groups? Because the main effect of government-imposed restrictions on political giving is to limit the amount of speech individuals, organizations and political actors can express. Giving money is not just a show of support. It also enables candidates and groups to spread their message further.

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Jackson Clarion Ledger: Report: Mississippi among top states for political speech rights (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
The Institute’s Free Speech Index scores and ranks all 50 states on their laws governing political giving, grading them from A+ to F. Fortunately, Mississippi ranked as one of the top states in the country, earning an A grade. This places it alongside 10 other states that earned an ‘A’ or higher. One crucial trait these states have in common is that they don’t limit the freedom of individuals to give to candidates, parties, and political committees, as well as the ability of parties and political committees to give to candidates.
Why is it so important that states like Mississippi allow freedom in political giving to and between these groups? Because the main effect of government-imposed restrictions on political giving is to limit the amount of speech individuals, organizations, and political actors can express. Giving money is not just a show of support. It also enables candidates and groups to spread their message further…
Lawmakers in Mississippi deserve praise for preserving their constituents’ First Amendment freedoms. Many politicians find it easier to pass laws that make it harder for voters or rival candidates to criticize them. They do so while claiming they are protecting voters from the rich when really, they are protecting themselves. Mississippi is one of 11 states that has done an exemplary job of avoiding this trap. Hopefully, the Institute for Free Speech’s Index will shed light on how such states can continue producing pro-First Amendment policy – and will push others to do the same.

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American Thinker: Did Free Speech Destroy American Democracy? (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
Demonizing political spending justifies policies aimed at deterring the rich in theory but that actually burden ordinary citizens. For every wealthy donor attacked on the floor of the U.S. Senate, there are many other average Americans harassed because the law requires that their political giving be put online. For every program sending tax dollars to politicians to supposedly reduce the sway of big donors, there is an increased chance that corrupt candidates will find new ways to cheat the system. Worse yet, efforts to deter political participation leave more power for abuse by government agencies – witness IRS abuses against Tea Party groups or pre-dawn police raids over alleged “coordination” between candidates and advocacy groups in Wisconsin…
What would make America more democratic would be enabling more political speech and participation. The recent decline in campaign finance restrictions has coincided with the breakdown of traditional party elites. The result is a rise in independent speech and more people running for office. It is hard to argue in the era of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders that elites have tightened their grasp on our elections. 

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