In the News
The Forward Counter: Return of Federal Moves to End Voter ID
By Erin Marie Joyce
Perhaps most important: At a time when speech is being suppressed on social media, amid a “cancel culture” wave among the progressive left, [S 2747] proposes new restrictions on political speech.
Institute for Free Speech President David Keating: “It would be a gift to political insiders and incumbents, and a nightmare for groups of Americans trying to speak.”
IFS said S 2747 would transform political debate in America into a bureaucratic process dominated by the Washington, D.C. establishment.
“The bill would impose unprecedented and constitutionally suspect regulations on speech about public policy, preventing most nonprofit organizations and experts from effectively advocating for or against legislation.”
New from the Institute for Free Speech
By David Keating
This morning the Federal Election Commission will consider Chairman Allen Dickerson’s “Motion to Instruct the Staff to Prepare an Amended Form 1 Acknowledging Independent Expenditure-Only and Hybrid Committees.”
It has been more than a decade since the Supreme Court ruled that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” …
Independent expenditure-only committees (so-called “super PACs”) and hybrid committees are here to stay. The Commission laudably moved to acknowledge the court rulings in 2014, when it “discharge[d] its basic constitutional duty” by “updating its regulations to remove unconstitutional provisions.” Statement of Chairman Lee E. Goodman on the Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC Rulemakings; see also FEC, Independent Expenditures and Electioneering Communications by Corporations and Labor Organizations, 79 Fed. Reg. 62797 (Oct. 21, 2014).
Updating Form 1 is a logical and long overdue next step.
The Institute for Free Speech wishes to congratulate Matt Nese, our longtime Director of External Relations, on his new position as Vice President at People United for Privacy Foundation.
“We’re sorry to see Matt leave but pleased he will continue the fight for freedom of assembly at one of our close allies. We congratulate Matt on this well-deserved opportunity and thank him for his many years of service to the Institute for Free Speech,” said IFS President David Keating. “Since 2012, Matt has spearheaded our legislative outreach and coalition efforts and later supervised our policy, research, and communications teams. The Institute, and the First Amendment, would not be as strong as they are today without him.”
By Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett
Chuck Schumer will bring elections and voting legislation to the Senate floor in the coming days, using existing congressional rules to evade an initial GOP filibuster.
The House will imminently pass a bill containing both sweeping federal elections reform and beefed up Voting Right Act provisions. Because the bill will be sent to the Senate as a “message” from the House, it will not be subject to an initial filibuster by the GOP and will be debated on the floor…
“The Senate will finally debate voting rights legislation, and then every senator will be faced with a choice of whether or not to pass the legislation to protect our democracy,” Schumer wrote in a memo, obtained by POLITICO, to Senate Democrats…
President Joe Biden will attend a special caucus meeting with Senate Democrats Thursday as the party struggles over how and whether to weaken the filibuster to pass elections reform…
In a note to members Wednesday night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed the House would vote Thursday on the elections and voting reform bills, sending them to the Senate…
Schumer has warned senators they may have to stay in D.C. for the weekend, and some are expecting the vote to take place on Monday, despite a previously scheduled recess…
“I’ve got no new answers at all,” [Sen. Joe] Manchin reiterated Wednesday morning. “Good meetings, good discussions.” He added that Biden gave a “good speech” in Georgia Tuesday, when the president made the case for changing Senate rules to pass voting reform.
By Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney
“What do I do about the fact the president didn’t denounce the conduct immediately?” [U.S. District Judge Amit] Mehta wondered, homing in on a central focus of congressional investigators probing Trump’s conduct… “Isn’t that, from a plausibility standpoint, enough to at least plausibly infer that the president agreed with the conduct of the people that were inside the Capitol that day?
Mehta’s questioning prompted Trump’s attorney, Jesse Binnall, to push back, forcefully arguing that Trump can’t conceivably face legal consequences for actions he did not take.
“The president cannot be subject to judicial action for any sort of damages for failing to do something,” Binnall said…
Patrick Malone, an attorney for a pair of U.S. Capitol Police officers suing Trump, said immunizing statements like the ones Trump made on the Ellipse on Jan. 6 would create a bizarre disparity with other presidential candidates.
“Are we really saying that if you happen to be the incumbent in office you are immune … the incumbent would be immune but his adversary, his opponent, would not be immune?” Malone said. “I don’t see how that could be.”
By Cydney Posner
If you think 2021 was a tough year for corporate political activity, 2022 may be even more challenging.
That’s according to a recent survey from The Conference Board of government relations executives and managers of political action committees. In the survey, 87% of respondents said they expect 2022 to be at least as challenging as 2021, and 42% anticipate that it may actually be worse…In the survey, respondents cited a number of factors that contributed to the difficult environment for corporate political activity in 2021: in particular, 77% cited the frequent emergence of new social and political issues on which companies faced pressure to take a stance.
Online Speech Platforms
Reason: Facebook Is a Snitch
By J.D. Tuccille
“[A]ctual intent to carry out violence can be difficult to discern from the angry, hyperbolic—and constitutionally protected—speech and information commonly found on social media and other online platforms,” Melissa Smislova, former head of Intelligence and Analysis for the Department of Homeland Security, told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs last March.
That challenge is emphasized by the Brennan Center [in the report released last week,] which points out that “[s]ocial media conversations are difficult to interpret because they are often highly context-specific and can be riddled with slang, jokes, memes, sarcasm, and references to popular culture; heated rhetoric is also common.” …
The Brennan Center focuses on the risks that mining social media poses “for the Black, Latino, and Muslim communities that are historically targeted by law enforcement and intelligence efforts” and there’s no doubt that agents motivated by racial, ethnic, and religious animus can have a field day spinning off-the-cuff posts and tweets. But the fractured state of modern America makes it obvious that political bias is also a danger when law enforcement goes on the hunt for participants in protests gone wrong or seeks damning details about critics of whichever faction is currently in power.
By Nick Reisman
A bill meant to ban major multinational corporations from making political donations and spending money on campaigns was approved Monday in the state Senate.
The measure, modeled after similar bills in Seattle and St. Petersburg, Fla., is taking aim at the proliferation of corporate spending on campaigns in the wake of the Citizens United decision in 2010. The Supreme Court ruling would coincide with the era of so-called “super PAC” spending in campaigns.
“Unlimited corporate spending has a pernicious effect on our elections and my Democracy Preservation Act will make substantial inroads in fighting the undue influence of big corporations on our democracy,” said Sen. Michael Gianaris, the measure’s sponsor. “Enactment of this bill would ensure that New York’s elections are decided by its people, not by big corporations.”
The bill approved Monday would apply to companies in which more than 1% is owned by a single foreign national or more than 5% is owned by foreign nationals cumulatively from making political donations in state and local campaigns in New York.
It would also bar such firms from contributing to the funding of independent expenditure committees or political action committees.
Albuquerque Journal: Public financing the common factor for winners of ABQ campaigns in 2021
By Jessica Dyer
[City Clerk Ethan Watson] had refused to certify [mayoral candidate Manuel] Gonzales for more than $600,000 in taxpayer dollars, citing evidence that Gonzales violated rules during the qualifying process. Gonzales’ campaign later acknowledged it had likely submitted forged documents – and the city’s Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices ultimately fined the sheriff twice for infractions – but his team maintained he still garnered enough community support to get the money…
Some see other problems too; former city councilor and onetime New Mexico secretary of state Brad Winter ran one of his campaigns on public financing but said he would never use it again if he pursued another office. He said public financing qualifications are complicated, hard to explain to voters and ripe for misconduct. Would-be mayors and councilors must demonstrate sufficient community interest in their campaigns by getting 1% of the voters in their district to contribute $5 to their public financing bid. Campaigns often use paid staff or volunteers to solicit the money. One of Gonzales’ ethics cases involved forged signatures on the $5 receipts.
Winter also voiced concern that empowering an appointed official like the clerk to decide whether to certify a candidate for the money without anyone else’s input makes the system “too political” – or at least opens the process up to such criticism.