Daily Media Links 6/16

June 16, 2022   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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In the News

Springfield Business Journal: St. Charles County district reaches $70K settlement

The Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County reached a $70,000 settlement with a group of parents and the Institute for Free Speech, the Washington, D.C., nonprofit that backed them.

The parents filed suit in February, alleging district officials unfairly used a no-advertising policy to stop them from mentioning the name of a conservative parents’ political action committee during board meetings.

The PAC, called Francis Howell Families, backed the winners of the district’s two open board seats in April.

Mike Ferguson in the Morning (audio): Francis Howell Families Lawsuit with Chris Brooks – Mike Ferguson – 06 – 15 – 22

Francis Howell Families, with Chris as lead plaintiff, won their court case against the school district. Francis Howell had set a rule that banned any reference of Francis Howell Families (the organization) in the comments at school board meetings.

New from the Institute for Free Speech

Estimating the Cost of Fighting a SLAPP in a State with No Anti-SLAPP Law

By David Keating

If you’re faced with a meritless lawsuit alleging defamation, what can you expect to pay in legal fees?

The short answer is: it depends. We estimate that it would cost between $21,000 and $55,000 to defeat a typical meritless defamation lawsuit in court, with the median at about $39,000. But the cost of a legal defense can easily soar into the six figures, and we’ve seen legal bills run in the millions of dollars.

Many different factors affect the cost. How complicated is the lawsuit? Is it obviously frivolous? Is the judge appropriately skeptical of the plaintiff’s allegations? How good, and how expensive, are your attorneys?

We base this estimate on a 2012 study by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) titled “Estimating the Cost of Civil Litigation.” The study provides valuable insights that allow us to suggest reasonable estimates.

The Courts

Reason (Volokh Conspiracy): Seventh Circuit Reinstates Lawsuit Over School Ban on T-Shirts That Depict Guns

By Eugene Volokh

From N.J. v. Sonnabend, decided today by the Seventh Circuit (Judge Diane Sykes, joined by Judges Kenneth Ripple and Amy St. Eve):

“The plaintiffs are two teenagers who attend Wisconsin public schools. Both are gun enthusiasts and supporters of the Second Amendment. To express that support, they own and wear T-shirts that communicate their favorable opinion of the right to bear arms. When they wore those shirts to school, however, they got into trouble with school officials…

Administrators at both schools barred the boys from wearing the shirts, explaining that any clothing depicting firearms is forbidden. Neither school’s dress code expressly bans clothing with images of firearms. Rather, the dress codes prohibit “inappropriate” attire, which the administrators interpreted to bar any clothing with an image of a firearm regardless of whether it conveys support for or opposition to gun rights….”

Note: I was commissioned by the Firearms Policy Coalition and Firearms Policy Foundation to file an amicus brief in this case, which argued that viewpoint-neutral restrictions on K-12 student speech should indeed be subject to Tinker. Congratulations to John R. Monroe, who represented the students.


Washington Post: Bipartisan bill aims to curb foreign influence in U.S. democracy

By Isaac Stanley-Becker

A House bill due to be introduced Thursday seeks to curb foreign influence in U.S. democracy by imposing a lifetime ban on members of Congress, senior military leaders and senior executive branch officials from lobbying for a foreign government or political party, among other measures.

The legislation would also compel tax-exempt groups, including think tanks, to disclose high-dollar donations and gifts from foreign powers and require political campaigns to verify that donors have a valid U.S. address, using the three-digit CVV code on the back of credit cards.

The proposed measures, which have not been previously reported, respond to growing concern on Capitol Hill that key components of the government and civil society remain susceptible to foreign interference, six years after the Kremlin mounted a campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election…

The bill has bipartisan backing. Its lead sponsor is Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat and Marine veteran from a conservative-leaning district in Maine, who said one of the chief problems with the U.S. political system is that “corruption is either completely legal or punished with slaps on the wrist.” An aide to Golden said the congressman’s effort to find consensus for a targeted package of anti-corruption measures is in response to the GOP’s rejection of a broader voting rights, elections and ethics bill, known as H.R. 1.

Office of Sen. Kevin Cramer: Sen. Cramer, Colleagues Introduce Political BIAS Emails Act

U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Thune (R-SD), and 24 of their colleagues introduced the Political Bias in Algorithm Sorting (BIAS) Emails Act. This legislation would hold Big Tech platforms accountable for using biased algorithms and ensure emails are delivered to consumers without a political filter. The legislation would also create more transparency for consumers by revealing the censoring practices Big Tech platforms, including Google, use to filter content.

Bloomberg Government: Bill to Aid Local News Gets Revamp, New Bipartisan Interest

By Maria Curi

Senators are gearing up to advance a proposal to empower small news organizations to negotiate compensation from technology giants such as Meta Platform Inc.‘s Facebook and Alphabet Inc.‘s Google, people familiar with the discussions said…

The latest version also includes a measure to ensure “dark money organizations” such as Russian state-controlled international television network RT, don’t benefit from the bargaining authority, the lobbyist said.

Bill sponsors say an inclusive and neutral definition of providers will ensure viewpoints across the ideological spectrum can negotiate pay.

“Digital journalism provider” is defined in the bill summary as entities that “engage professionals to create, edit, produce, and distribute original content concerning local, national, or international matters of public interest,” among other criteria.

Tech companies would be prohibited from retaliating against publishers by refusing to index content or lowering search rankings, according to the summary.

Free Expression

Los Angeles Review of Books: What Makes Censors Tick?

By Stephen Rohde

Why would someone become a censor? Why have people throughout history devoted themselves to banning books or restricting what other people can read or write or paint or see or say or teach?

In his entertaining, enlightening, and timely book, The Mind of the Censor and the Eye of the Beholder: The First Amendment and the Censor’s Dilemma, Robert Corn-Revere explores these and other intriguing questions by delving into the lives and work of five influential American advocates of censorship as well as a host of lesser censors.

Independent Groups

Politico: House candidate’s mother boosts his New Jersey campaign with $2M super PAC donation

By Matt Friedman

A new super PAC has amassed a huge war chest to spend on behalf of New Jersey Republican congressional candidate Bob Healey Jr., and most of the money comes from his mother.


New York Times: Who Is Financing Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ Caucus? Corporations You Know.

By Alex Kingsbury

In the year and a half since the attack, rivers of cash from once skittish donors have resumed flowing to election deniers. Sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes just a thousand. But it adds up. In the month of April alone, the last month for which data is available, Fortune 500 companies and trade organizations gave more than $1.4 million to members of Congress who voted not to certify the election results, according to an analysis by the transparency group Accountable.US. AT&T led the pack, giving $95,000 to election objectors…

Many Americans say they’ve moved on from the attack on Jan. 6. For those who haven’t, a good place to focus their attention is on the continuing threat to the Republic posed by politicians who are actively undermining it, and the money that helps them do so.

Tiffany Donnelly

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