Daily Media Links 2/15

February 15, 2022   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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New from the Institute for Free Speech

Lawsuit: Missouri School Board Violates First Amendment Rights of Critics

Concerned parents and community members in St. Charles County, Missouri, formed Francis Howell Families (FHF) to advocate for transparency and accountability in their local school board. School board officials, however, had other ideas, which they will now have to explain to a federal judge.

Citing a policy against advertising on school property, the Francis Howell School District banned speakers at board meetings from so much as mentioning the group’s name or website in public comments. Members have been cut off for referencing the group’s online resources and threatened with permanent speaking bans. Meanwhile, other speakers have repeatedly referenced their organizations and causes at meetings without restriction or admonishment.

In a federal lawsuit filed late Friday, three current and former members of Francis Howell Families are suing the district and its officers over their selective enforcement of the advertising ban. They are represented by attorneys from the Institute for Free Speech, a nonpartisan First Amendment advocacy group that defends political speech rights.

Testimony of Bradley A. Smith and David Keating Before the State Government Committee of the Pennsylvania House Of Representatives

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to participate in the hearing today. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2021 ruling in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta will have a substantial, positive impact on the rights of Americans to keep their memberships, volunteer work, and financial support for causes and organizations private. This landmark legal precedent is already being implemented by federal courts to evaluate donor disclosure and campaign finance laws. In large part, it incorporates and builds upon previous precedents. Therefore, our statement will focus on the meaning and potential impact of this ruling. We have also included as an appendix to our statement additional background information on donor disclosure and campaign finance regulations.

Watch video of testimony here

PDF of testimony available here

The Courts

Politico: Judge throws out Palin libel case against New York Times

By Josh Gerstein

A judge has ruled that a libel lawsuit former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin filed against the New York Times over a 2017 editorial should be thrown out because her lawyers failed to produce adequate evidence that the newspaper knew what it wrote about her was false or acted recklessly toward indications it was false.

The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff Monday came as a Manhattan jury was deliberating on Palin’s suit, which claimed the Times and former editorial page editor James Bennet defamed her by unfairly linking her to a 2011 shooting spree in Arizona that killed six people and gravely wounded then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Rakoff said he would continue to allow the jury to deliberate to a verdict, arguing that an appeal in the case seems inevitable and that the jury’s verdict could be useful to the appeals court…

Rakoff said in his ruling that during the trial, Palin’s attorneys failed to elicit enough evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee had met the “actual malice” standard the Supreme Court established for libel suits against public figures in the landmark 1964 ruling New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.

Candidates and Campaigns

National Journal: The high price of admission to Republican Party primaries

By Josh Kraushaar

Poring over the latest round of political fundraising reports, one simple but revealing trend emerges: A disproportionate number of Republican Senate candidates are very rich, funding their campaigns more from their own personal wealth than from a cadre of reliable donors…

At the same time, if candidates are unable to self-fund, their next-best option might be to appeal to small-dollar donors by playing to the more extreme elements of the Republican electorate, reaching them through alarmist online fundraising. In doing so, they undercut their own brand…

“Building up your small-dollar donor list sometimes means you have to sacrifice your message a bit. You have to invest resources in it,” said Republican strategist Kristin Davison, who advised Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign.

Online Speech Platforms

Daily Caller: Twitter Declines To Censor Tweets Reportedly Linking To Hacked Freedom Convoy Donor List

By Ailan Evans

Twitter is allowing posts to remain on its platform containing the private information of Freedom Convoy donors reportedly obtained through hacking…

Crowdfunding service GiveSendGo was reportedly hacked late Sunday and the personal information of donors to the Freedom Convoy, a group of truckers and individuals protesting Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions, was given to leak-hosting site Distributed Denial of Secrets, the organization said on its website…

A review of Twitter’s platform by the DCNF found several tweets appearing to contain screenshots of the hacked donor list or links to files containing what appeared to be the hacked materials. One of the tweets was from a prominent user with over 75,000 Twitter followers.

The donor list contains personally identifying information including full names, zip codes, email handles and IP addresses, as well as donation messages, according to a review of the hacked materials by the DCNF.

Twitter previously censored a tweet from the New York Post in October 2020, one month before the 2020 presidential election, linking to a story allegedly containing emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop. The social media company cited its hacked materials policy as the reason for its actions.

The States

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Abrams and Perdue fight GOP proposal to rewrite fundraising rules

By Greg Bluestein

Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican David Perdue have forged an uncommon alliance against a measure championed by Gov. Brian Kemp’s GOP allies to rewrite campaign finance rules months before the election.

The rivals for governor have rallied donors and supporters against a proposal that would ban challengers from raising campaign money during the three months that state legislators are in session.

Perdue, a former U.S. senator running against Kemp in the GOP primary, called the proposal a brazen “incumbent protection act” designed to help the governor and other vulnerable Republicans. And Abrams’ campaign held a virtual press conference Monday to sharpen its opposition to the measure.

“If there is a campaign finance law change that protects incumbency and is clearly unconstitutional, we are ready to fight it,” Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo said, while another deputy urged donors to give “very quickly” in case the changes take effect soon.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Bill would limit the ability of Missouri’s public universities to bar certain speakers

By Grace Zokovitch

The House Higher Education Committee heard testimony Monday afternoon on the “Censorship Prohibition Act,” sponsored by Rep. Adam Schnelting, R-St. Charles.

The bill speaks to broad GOP concerns about so-called cancel culture but has a fairly narrow scope, addressing only political speech by invited speakers at public colleges or universities. 

The bill specifies that speakers cannot be barred based on party affiliation or expressed viewpoints or ideology “that can be found in any major American political party platform.” This language, Schnelting said, was intended to address concerns about providing a platform for extreme fringe groups, like the Nazi party.

But Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, said excluding fringe groups from the protection went against the intention of protecting free speech…

The legislation is House Bill 2105.

Tiffany Donnelly

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