Analysis: H.R. 1 Would Create a Speech Czar and Enable Partisan Enforcement of Campaign Finance Laws

"For the Politicians Act" sounds a death knell for an independent, bipartisan FEC

January 31, 2019   •  By IFS Staff   •  
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Alexandria, VA – The Institute for Free Speech today released an analysis of H.R. 1‘s proposed changes to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The legislation would reduce the number of commissioners from 6 to 5 and create a new Speech Czar chosen by the president.

“H.R. 1 threatens to take us back to the days of Watergate when campaign finance laws were weaponized against the president’s opponents. The bill transforms the bipartisan FEC into a partisan tool of the president, removes checks and balances at the Commission, and biases judicial proceedings against speakers. This is one more reason H.R. 1 should be known as the ‘For the Politicians Act,'” said Institute for Free Speech Chairman and former Federal Election Commission Chair Bradley A. Smith.

To read the analysis, click here, or go to: https://www.ifs.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2019-01-31_IFS-Analysis_US_HR-1_Creating-A-Partisan-FEC.pdf.

Among other outcomes, H.R. 1’s changes to the FEC would:

  • Transform the Federal Election Commission from a bipartisan, 6-member agency to a partisan, 5-member agency under the control of the president.
  • Empower the Chair of the Commission, who will be hand-picked by the president, to serve as a de facto “Speech Czar,” with the sole power to, among other things, appoint (and remove) the Commission’s Staff Director, prepare its budget, require any person to submit, under oath, written reports and answers to questions, issue subpoenas, and compel testimony.
  • Time the enactment of this provision to allow the president elected in 2020 to ensure continued one-party control of the Commission through at least 2027.
  • Expand the General Counsel’s power while eroding accountability among the Commissioners. Intrusive investigations could begin without any approval from the Commissioners.
  • Create new standards of judicial review that weaken the rights of respondents in Commission matters.
  • Dispose of the requirement in existing law that the Commission’s Vice Chair come from a different party than the Chair, further allowing power at the agency to be consolidated within one party.

“Bipartisanship is not easy,” the analysis notes. “It requires both sides to recognize they will not always get their way. But for over 40 years, Republicans and Democrats were able to do it. Throwing that away and simply hoping a new agency will side with your preferred party is reckless and an enormous threat to the First Amendment.”

The Institute for Free Speech previously analyzed three other speech-chilling provisions of H.R. 1. Those sections of the legislation would regulate political speech on the Internet, violate the privacy of advocacy groups and their supporters, and compel speakers to include lengthy government-mandated messages in their communications. That analysis is available here.

About the Institute for Free Speech

The Institute for Free Speech is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes and defends the First Amendment rights to freely speak, assemble, publish, and petition the government. Originally known as the Center for Competitive Politics, it was founded in 2005 by Bradley A. Smith, a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. The Institute is the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.

IFS Staff

IFS Staff