In the News
By Tim Hinchliffe
Witnesses in Wednesday’s congressional hearing “A Growing Threat: How Disinformation Damages American Democracy” unanimously agreed that there should be no federal disinformation governance board…
But when it came to actual recommendations regarding what should be done about disinformation, particularly regarding elections, their answers varied…
One witness, Institute for Free Speech Senior Fellow Gary Lawkowski, expressed the ideas that more good speech beats bad speech and that citizens should decide for themselves what is and isn’t disinformation.
For the free speech advocate, “the fundamental problem with regulating disinformation is ‘who’ decides.”
“I believe the American people should make that decision,” Lawkowski testified, adding, “I think when presented with all the information, they can choose for themselves, and I think that’s the way it’s supposed to work in a democratic society,” Lawkowski testified…
“More speech,” according to Lawkowski’s written testimony, “allows true speech to outshine false statements in a marketplace of ideas.” …
“The government is supposed to be the servant of the people; it’s not supposed to be its master. It’s supposed to take its direction from ‘we, the people’ — not direct ‘we, the people,’” he added.
St. Louis Record: Francis Howell Families on legal victory: ‘It was never about the money’
By Juliette Fairley
When the Francis Howell school board decided to implement an advertising policy last year, it became an obstacle that Ken Gontarz had not anticipated…
A conservative Political Action Committee (PAC) called Francis Howell Families (FHF) was founded by Gontarz and he had freely and regularly commented at school board meetings along with other members of the PAC…
So, after the school board president announced that Francis Howell families could not state the PAC name or website during school board meetings all while allowing other organizations and people to speak theirs, Gontarz, Christopher Brooks, and Katherine Rash filed a lawsuit in federal court on Feb. 11…
[O]n April 12 Eastern District of Missouri Judge Stephen Clark ruled in favor of the families…
The case was settled with the school district agreeing to pay $70,000 in legal fees to the families’ legal counsel.
“It was never about the money,” Gontarz added. “It was nothing other than Francis Howell Families wanted to be treated identically and the same as anybody else coming to that school board meeting and we felt that we were being singled out and silenced.”
New from the Institute for Free Speech
In an open letter to the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) released today, 28 nonprofit organizations and trade associations from across the political spectrum endorsed the ULC’s model state law to protect speakers from meritless and retaliatory lawsuits. The bill, known as the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act (UPEPA), was enacted by overwhelming margins in Kentucky and Hawaii earlier this year.
The groups tout the UPEPA as the best defense states can provide against lawsuits intended to silence or punish speech. Even when these lawsuits, known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“SLAPP”), are unsuccessful, they can force speakers to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend basic First Amendment rights…
Signers of the letter include prominent civil liberties organizations, major trade associations, and groups representing journalists and publishers. The five organizing signers are the American Civil Liberties Union, Institute for Free Speech, Institute for Justice, Public Participation Project, and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
“At a time when politics is growing more divisive, protecting free speech in the courts is one thing all sides can agree on. Anti-SLAPP laws are popular across the political spectrum and receive strong bipartisan support because they safeguard everyone’s right to free expression,” said David Keating, President of the Institute for Free Speech.
This blog post provides information on states that have either enacted new anti-SLAPP laws or improved existing laws since the February 2022 publication of our Anti-SLAPP Report Card.
June 17, 2022: Hawaii Adopts New and Improved Anti-SLAPP Statute
Governor David Ige signed the Hawaii Public Expression Protection Act (SB 3329) into law on June 17, 2022. The new law, which took effect immediately, replaces Hawaii’s previously enacted anti-SLAPP statute, the Citizen Participation in Government Act, which earned a “D” in our Anti-SLAPP Report Card.
As stated in the recently adopted legislation, “The purpose of this Act is to enact the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act.” Anti-SLAPP laws that mirror this model bill from the Uniform Law Commission earn a perfect score under the Report Card’s methodology, and the final version of SB 3329 doesn’t stray far from the model. We therefore expect Hawaii’s new law will earn a top grade for the state.
Washington Post: Appeals court upholds Arkansas’ Israel boycott pledge law
By Andrew Demillo, AP
A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld Arkansas’ law requiring state contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel, finding the restriction is not an unconstitutional violation of free speech.
The full 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a 2-1 decision last year by a three-judge panel of the court that found the requirement to be unconstitutional. The Arkansas Times had sued to block the law, which requires contractors with the state to reduce their fees by 20% if they don’t sign the pledge.
“(The law) only prohibits economic decisions that discriminate against Israel,” Judge Jonathan Kobes wrote in the court’s opinion. “Because those commercial decisions are invisible to observers unless explained, they are not inherently expressive and do not implicate the First Amendment.” …
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the Times, said it planned to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
By News Service of Florida
Attorneys for the state and online-industry groups plan to go to the U.S. Supreme Court in a battle about a 2021 Florida law that would crack down on social-media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, according to new court filings.
The filings effectively seek to put proceedings on hold in a federal district court and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals while the case goes to the Supreme Court.
The state plans to file a petition urging the Supreme Court to take up the case, and the online-industry groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association plan to file a cross-petition seeking Supreme Court review, according to a joint motion filed Friday at the Atlanta-based appeals court.
Wiley’s Political Law Podcast: A Conversation with FEC Commissioner Shana Broussard
Hosted by Lee Goodman
On this episode, Wiley partner Lee Goodman sits down for a one-on-one with Federal Election Commission (FEC) Commissioner Shana Broussard to discuss her background and distinguished years of public service. Listen as Commissioner Broussard candidly describes her experience stepping into her role of commissioner in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlights bipartisan efforts to clear the FEC’s backlog of cases during her time as Chair, and looks ahead at what’s next for the FEC in view of a new, incoming Commissioner and the upcoming 2022 midterm elections.
Candidates and Campaigns
National Review: Once Again, Only the Other Guy’s Super PACs Are Bad
By Jim Geraghty
Well-past-his-sell-by-date former presidential candidate Evan McMullin is now the de facto Democratic nominee for Senate in Utah, running against incumbent Republican Mike Lee. McMullin insists he’s an independent, but the Utah Democratic Party endorsed him.
In a recent fundraising email, McMullin’s campaign writes:
“After a new poll showed us in a near-statistical tie with Senator Lee, a far-right super PAC announced it was spending $2 MILLION to prop up Lee’s campaign.
That is the type of dark-money spending we’ll be up against from now through Election Day.”
It’s also the kind of so-called “dark money spending” that helped McMullin in his presidential bid in 2016! The Lincoln Project is a super PAC, will McMullin denounce their efforts as sinister “dark money spending”? Or is McMullin like almost every other candidate in politics who denounces the super PACs that work against him but quietly assents to the super PACs that work to help elect him?
Washington Post: Liberal groups devote millions to blocking GOP election deniers
By Michael Scherer
The scale of the spending is hard to calculate because much of it has been routed through state-specific or niche nonprofit groups that do not disclose their donors. But people involved in the effort described multiple parallel efforts that could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
By Brian Flood and Nikolas Lanum
The threat of “Spanish-language disinformation,” which was amplified by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., ahead of the 2020 election, has been embraced by Democrats and the media alike, but a conservative Latino media watchdog believes the talking point is simply a ploy by the left to control the flow of information to Hispanic voters.
Media Research Center director of MRC Latino Jorge Bonilla believes the left’s push to control Spanish-language media will only increase as Democrats continue to lose Hispanic voters, and the potential takeover of Miami’s iconic, Spanish-language conservative talk radio station Radio Mambí by a George Soros-linked group puts a spotlight on the issue.
“I don’t necessarily believe that there is a disinformation problem on Spanish-language media, and part of the problem with this is that the term ‘disinformation’ has been dumbed down. It has been stretched like taffy to become, and to encompass, anything that the left doesn’t like or doesn’t agree with,” Bonilla told Fox News Digital.
By Candice Ferrette
Suffolk County legislators on Wednesday night approved a Republican-sponsored bill to end the county’s $2.6 million public campaign finance program.
Ed. note: Read the recent Newsday op-ed in favor of ending the program by the Institute’s Tiffany Donnelly.
By Spencer Custodio
Anaheim City Council members deadlocked on a campaign finance reform in an effort to lessen special interests’ influence on policy decisions, which has come under intense public scrutiny since revelations of an FBI corruption probe into City Hall.