Washington, DC – Sweeping legislation that would rewrite federal laws governing political speech and association, elections, and ethics suffered a major setback this evening as a vote to advance the bill, a near-identical variant of S. 1, failed in the Senate. The Institute for Free Speech released the following statement in response to the vote:
“A defeat for S. 1 is a victory for free speech. We can’t improve democracy by restricting First Amendment rights. We certainly can’t pretend doing so is ‘For the People,’” said Institute for Free Speech President David Keating.
“S. 1 poses the most significant threat in a generation to Americans’ freedoms to speak, publish, and organize for political change. It imposes campaign finance regulation on all manner of speech about public issues, including speech about legislation and judicial nominees. It will force Americans to hire an attorney to exercise basic First Amendment rights. Even that precaution may not be enough. The 300 pages of the bill that affect free speech are impossibly vague and would be enforced and interpreted by a new, partisan Federal Election Commission under the president’s control. Such an agency would become a powerful weapon to silence critics and harass opposing candidates. If that weren’t enough, the bill would also subsidize candidates for Congress and the presidency at the cost of billions of taxpayer dollars each election cycle,” explained Keating.
“We commend Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and all Republican Senators for unanimously opposing S. 1’s assault on free speech. Now it is time for Congress to heed the warnings of First Amendment experts from across the political spectrum, including the ACLU. Threats to free speech have no place in a bill supposedly aimed at improving democracy. Chief among these threats are S. 1’s mandates on groups, including long-standing nonprofit and civic organizations, to publicly expose their members when speaking about legislation and public issues. These measures violate Americans’ constitutional right to associate privately with one another in support of social causes, expose civically engaged Americans to harassment and retaliation for their beliefs, and drive groups into silence. Other provisions of S. 1 threaten to remove political speech from much of the internet by imposing enormous liability costs on websites that host low-cost ads about legislation and policy debates. These proposals would severely weaken, not improve, our democracy,” said Keating.
To access the Institute for Free Speech’s resources, analysis, and commentary on S. 1, as well as its companion legislation H.R. 1, visit our resource guide here: https://www.ifs.org/blog/h-r-1-resource-guide/.
About the Institute for Free Speech
The Institute for Free Speech is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes and defends the First Amendment rights to freely speak, assemble, publish, and petition the government. Originally known as the Center for Competitive Politics, it was founded in 2005 by Bradley A. Smith, a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. The Institute is the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.