In the News
1080 WTIC NewsTalk: Owen Yeates
[Ed. note: IFS Senior Attorney and Deputy Vice President for Litigation Owen Yeates is scheduled to appear on 1080 WTIC NewsTalk with Joe Markley on Wednesday, May 26 at 11:08 am. Listeners can listen live at the above link. Yeates will discuss recent developments in the Connecticut case, Markley and Sampson v. SEEC, in which Mr. Markley is a plaintiff represented by the Institute for Free Speech. To learn more about the Connecticut Supreme Court’s recent ruling, click here. For more information about the case, click here.]
By Alex Baiocco
Ad platforms unheard of not long ago give the average person a new way to speak to other Americans at low cost. Now, some propose, including through legislation, that government ban Americans from reaching specific audiences online when speaking about candidates and policy issues. This practice, often called “microtargeting,” describes efforts to concentrate communication efforts on those most likely to be receptive to a speaker’s message. The accessibility of digital targeting tools has been a boon to civic engagement and political association, particularly at the grassroots level. A ban would favor wealthier persons and groups as well as the status quo.
Targeted online ads are an essential tool for Americans seeking to join forces with fellow citizens to make their voices heard. In other words, microtargeting facilitates democracy in action.
By Alex Baiocco
Banning Microtargeting WOULD…
Force campaigns and groups to devote more of their limited resources to less effective forms of communication…
Benefit wealthy and celebrity candidates…
Inhibit small-dollar and grassroots fundraising…
Laws Prohibiting Microtargeting Would…
NOT address foreign interference…
NOT enhance the quality or truthfulness of speech…
NOT enable more counterspeech…
NOT reduce divisiveness or promote national unity.
Federalist Society: H.R. 1, the For the People Act, Explained
Teleforum: May 26, 2021, Wednesday 1:00 p.m. EDT
Mr. Bradley A. Smith, Chairman and Founder of the Institute for Free Speech and one of the nation’s foremost experts on campaign finance law will join us to discuss some of the more important provisions and implications of H.R.1/S. 1, the For the People Act.
Bradley A. Smith, Chairman and Founder, Institute for Free Speech
Dial 888-752-3232 to access the call.
A new lawsuit by the Chinese American Civil Rights Coalition has garnered national attention in the media where former President Donald Trump is being sued for his use of such terms as the “Chinese Virus,” “China Virus,” “Wuhan Flu,” and “Kung Flu.” What is most interesting about this lawsuit is how it is arguably meritless under both tort and constitutional law…
The lengthy complaint is long on political rhetoric and short on legal support.
Capital Research Center: Sheldon Whitehouse Searches for More Traitors
By Ken Braun
Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) announced he would begin a “new series of Senate floor speeches . . . exposing the scheme by right-wing donor interests to capture the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Unless he has found a new conspiracy to worry over, this likely means another round of denunciations of right-leaning and libertarian organizations that engage in legally protected free speech but commit the offense of saying things Whitehouse disagrees with. Previous targets have included dozens of think tanks and other policy organizations, such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Judicial Crisis Network, the Federalist Society, and the Pacific Legal Foundation.
By Christian Spencer
Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV “Fixer Upper” fame donated $1,000 on Wednesday to Shannon Braun’s campaign for the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) School Board — a candidate who is against critical race theory, The Dallas Morning News reported.
The Dispatch: The GOP Becomes What it Once Despised
By David French
One of the incredibly bizarre developments of this dysfunctional modern time is the extent to which a faction of the Republican Party is now rejecting the crown achievements of the conservative legal movement. Increasingly, the GOP is looking at remarkable legal advances in the fight against speech codes, against government regulation of corporate speech, and against government-mandated viewpoint discrimination—and declaring that it prefers power over liberty.
It wants more government control over speech. It wants speech codes.
By Charles Bowyer and Jerry Bowyer
Should the management of AT&T, the world’s largest telecommunications company, be spending “a lot of time” on political issues? Most people would likely say no: AT&T is a corporation, not a Super PAC. Yet at the company’s latest shareholder meeting, that is exactly what management said it was doing. In response to a summary of shareholder questions over AT&T’s political engagement, CEO John Stankey produced a justification of AT&T’s politicking that inadvertently presented a compelling case for corporate political disengagement.
He began his defense by saying, “This is a hard issue right now, it’s one that I know I personally, and the rest of the management team, are spending a lot of time on.” He stated that “nearly every issue that comes up seems to be viewed through a divisive, partisan point of view,” which is a “tough environment to operate [in.]” He then explained that he “do[es] not believe that companies or CEOs are always best equipped to effectively fill the void that’s oftentimes left by our political leadership.”…
Mr. Stankey’s justifications for AT&T’s political expeditions are contradictory. We are in a particularly contentious political moment, and yet companies still need to publicly advocate for and against various political causes? Why, exactly?
Reason (Volokh Conspiracy): California Bill Would Ban “Protest Activities” Within 300 Feet of Vaccination Site
By Eugene Volokh
(a) It is unlawful, except upon private property, for a person to engage in physical obstruction, intimidation, or picketing targeted at a vaccination site during the time period beginning one hour prior to the vaccination services beginning, and ending one hour after the conclusion of the vaccination services.
(b) A violation of subdivision (a) is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment….
I can’t see how on picketing the ban could be constitutional, given that McCullen v. Coakley (2014) struck down a much narrower (35-foot) bubble zone around abortion clinics. Nor does Burson v. Freeman (1992), which upheld a ban on electioneering within 100 feet of polling places, justify the law; indeed, the Court in McCullen distinguished Burson on grounds that would equally apply here:
By Henry Olsen
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is receiving fire for signing a bill on Monday that bans social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook from censoring posts from registered political candidates. The critics are wrong: The law enhances political speech at a minimal cost to the affected companies…
Social media is an important, if not the most important, realm in which political debates are conducted today. As a result, access to social media is essential to any entity seeking to influence those debates. When a network denies someone access, it is significantly hampering the ability to successfully engage in political debate. That alone weighs heavily in favor of ensuring access is not unfairly or arbitrarily restricted or denied…
The federal government has long treated companies intrinsic to mass communication differently than other firms or individuals. Television and radio stations, for example, are required to run commercials from registered candidates for public office regardless of their content. They are also required to charge candidates lower ad rates than they charge commercial purchasers. Both requirements are justified as ways to ensure wide access to the entities that publicize ideas to a mass audience. The gain for political speech thus outweighs the burden placed on the communications companies.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: One election, two sets of rules with new campaign finance law
By Patricia Murphy
The bills signed quietly are always the ones you should read twice.
So take out your readers for Senate Bill 221, the new campaign finance law that passed in the closing days of the Georgia General Assembly’s legislative session and was signed without notice by Gov. Brian Kemp. It goes into effect five weeks from now.
As the AJC’s James Salzer has reported, the measure lets a governor, lieutenant governor, the party nominees for those positions, and Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate create “leadership committees” for campaign fundraising.
Those committees can raise unlimited sums of money from corporations or individuals and then plan their spending with the campaigns of the incumbents or nominees they were raised for. The funds can also be spent on other state contests.
Crucially, the new law won’t apply to everybody. Primary challengers in the governor’s race and in state legislative contests will still operate under the previous campaign finance laws, which prevent campaigns from coordinating with outside groups and keep donation limits in place.