New from the Institute for Free Speech
The Institute for Free Speech is delighted to welcome Dustin Hartuv as a Bradley Summer Associate Fellow for the summer of 2022. Dustin will assist the Institute’s growing legal team and work on legal research projects.
Dustin is currently a J.D. student and a rising 2L at Cornell Law School. In 2021, he graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown University with a B.A. in economics and minors in mathematics and business administration.
Dustin is an avid and accomplished author. In college, he wrote for the Georgetown Campus Ministry, McDonough School of Business, The Hoya, and other outlets. He has also self-published several novels and is a published coauthor of a book on economics. Dustin is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a former intern for Congressman Ralph Abraham.
“The First Amendment is so important because it covers such a wide range of activity, from the way we organize and fund campaigns to the simple yet critical act of expressing our political perspectives. Today, this precious right has been battered and is in desperate need of protection. For that reason, I’m proud to work with the staff at IFS to preserve our fundamental freedoms,” Dustin said.
We look forward to a productive summer working with Dustin to defend and advance free political speech. Please join us in welcoming him to the team!
Roll Call: Senate confirms Democratic nominee to FEC
By Kate Ackley
The Senate voted 54-38 Tuesday to confirm Democratic political lawyer Dara Lindenbaum, whose clients included the gubernatorial campaign of Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, to serve on the Federal Election Commission.
An election lawyer with the firm Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, Lindenbaum will fill the seat of Steven Walther, an independent who was picked by Democrats and had been serving on a long-expired term. The agency, which enforces federal campaign finance laws, is designed to have three Republican and three Democratic commissioners and often deadlocks 3-3 along party lines, but in recent years it had too few commissioners to conduct official business or even hold meetings.
When Lindenbaum joins the agency, five commissioners will have been confirmed since May 2020. Commissioner Ellen Weintraub has served since 2002.
By Claire Goforth
The latest TikTok challenge is going after the tax-exempt status of churches whose pastors talk politics from the pulpit.
In order to be exempt from taxes, the Internal Revenue Service prohibits nonprofits like churches from a variety of activities, including being involved in political campaigns and excessive lobbying.
Critics have long complained that the law is essentially toothless because it’s almost never enforced against religious institutions.
But TikTokers are looking to change that. Reporting churches for violating the prohibition on political speech seems to be the platform’s newest effort.
The challenge is partly inspired by a wild tangent by a pastor in Tennessee.
“If you vote Democrat, I don’t even want you around this church,” Greg Locke of Global Vision Baptist Church ranted at a recent service.
The Atlantic: Letter: Free Speech for All Is Still Our Mission
By David Cole
Lara Bazelon accuses the American Civil Liberties Union of having lost its way. We have not…
Bazelon suggests that we have abandoned our historic commitment to defending the speech rights of all in favor of advocacy for progressive causes, and cites as evidence “case selection guidelines” drafted in 2018. But the guidelines, which I drafted with a committee, expressly proclaim that free-speech rights “extend to all, even to the most repugnant speakers—including white supremacists—and pursuant to ACLU policy, we will continue our longstanding practice of representing such groups.” And we have continued to do just that, representing and supporting organizations and individuals with whom we vehemently disagree, including: Trump supporters, the Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Donald Trump himself, the NRA, the anti-trans provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, anti-Semitic protesters, racist and homophobic students, and the Koch-supported Americans for Prosperity. Most recently, we called on Georgetown University not to fire Ilya Shapiro over his “lesser Black woman” tweet about President Biden’s commitment to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and hailed Elon Musk’s pledge, should his purchase of Twitter go through, to re-platform Trump. Bazelon cites not a single case we declined to take up as too controversial.
By Harold Hutchison
A non-profit public interest law firm says that activism in the workplace has caused an explosion in free speech litigation across the country over the last two years, according to the organization’s president.
The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is involved in six cases of employees being punished for expressing political views, Terry Pell, the group’s president, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. The expressions in question usually came on employee’s personal time and were often surfaced by “activist” employees.
“This is very unusual,” Pell told TheDCNF. “Normally, we get one workplace speech case every four years, and last year we got four in one year and we’ve already got another two starting to launch this year.”
By Alex Seitz-Wald
Democratic billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried says he could spend $1 billion or more in the 2024 election, which would easily make him the biggest-ever political donor in a single election.
Bankman-Fried, 30, the founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, said in a podcast interview released Tuesday that he expects to give “north of $100 million” in the next presidential election and that he has a “soft ceiling” of $1 billion, with his spending likely to be on the higher end if former President Donald Trump runs again.
That kind of money would be “in a league of its own,” said Alex Baumgart, a researcher with the campaign finance tracker OpenSecrets.
By Alex Isenstadt
By this spring, it was becoming apparent that Perdue had failed to put together the robust political apparatus required to oust an incumbent. When they mapped out his campaign, aides to the former senator concluded they would need a well-funded super PAC and hoped that a pro-Perdue outside group, Georgia Action Fund, would raise between $8 million and $10 million, according to a person familiar with the discussions. But through May 10, the organization had only raised $2 million.
The super PAC’s campaign finance reports hinted at a big reason why: No individual person was willing to cross Kemp by putting their name on a donation. All the money the super PAC disclosed raising this year first passed through “dark money” nonprofits like the American Exceptionalism Institute and American Principles Project, obscuring the original source of the cash.
It was becoming a pattern. When Perdue aides sent out fundraising invitations, they often had to write, “Address provided upon RSVP” — because hosts didn’t want their names publicly listed.
Politico (NJ Playbook): The end of a PAC that was never so super
By Matt Friedman
Cynics that we are, reporters saw [super PAC Lead Right New Jersey] merely as a way to boost then-Republican State Chair Doug Steinhardt’s prospective gubernatorial bid, because of course it was.
And just as Steinhardt’s 2021 candidacy died a month after it started, the PAC went dead, raising and spending no money in 2021 after a little under $90,000 during the previous year. In March, the FEC, having sent the super PAC two letters about its failure to file, decided to shut it down.
None of this is particularly surprising, and I don’t think it’s a big deal that the PAC didn’t file paperwork since it wasn’t raising and spending any money (they did file with the IRS). But I think it illustrates the absurdity of our campaign finance system. Everyone knew what this super PAC was. But, perhaps to avoid running afoul of campaign finance laws and candidate coordination, the super PAC pretended to be something it wasn’t. And then as soon as Steinhardt’s candidacy was out of the picture, so was the super PAC.
By Isaac Stanley-Becker
Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist and tech entrepreneur, put another $3.5 million this month into a super PAC supporting Blake Masters in the highly competitive Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Arizona, according to a person familiar with the contribution.
The previously unreported donation is Thiel’s first new investment in the super PAC, Saving Arizona, since he seeded it with $10 million more than a year ago…
Thiel similarly funded a pro-Vance super PAC to the tune of $10 million. He invested another $3.5 million after the “Hillbilly Elegy” author secured former president Donald Trump’s endorsement last month and, in the final days of the Senate primary, put in an additional $1.5 million…
Thiel’s expenditures on Masters and Vance, both millennials seeking to push their party in a more nationalist direction, are among the largest sums ever contributed to individual Senate candidates.