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Putting “Dark Money” in Context: Campaign Spending by Nonprofits per Election Cycle

May 7, 2024  •  By Helen Knowles-Gardner   •  ,

One of the principal misconceptions about “dark money” is that it accounts for a significant percentage of total campaign spending.

Report on Inflation Adjustments to State Contribution Limits

September 19, 2023  •  By Alec Greven   •  , ,

Failure to protect campaign contribution limits from inflation harms free political speech.

Do States with Fewer Campaign Finance Regulations Have More Corruption?

May 24, 2023  •  By Alec Greven   •  , , ,

New research finds that states ranking highly for free political expression are not highly ranked states for corruption. In fact, states that have the ...

Free Speech Index

The Institute for Free Speech is pleased to present the Free Speech Index: Grading the 50 States on the Freedom To Speak About Government. ...

The Mirage of Corruption: An Analysis of the Supreme Court’s “Appearance of Corruption” Standard

August 8, 2022  •  By Alec Greven   •  , , ,

The Supreme Court’s landmark Buckley v. Valeo decision laid the foundation for modern campaign finance law in the United States. The decision rests on ...

Money’s Not Enough: The Stories Behind 2020 U.S. House Primary Money-Upsets

May 16, 2022  •  By Nathan Maxwell   •  ,

PDF available here Introduction As the 2022 midterm elections approach, we’ll no doubt see media pundits aiming to predict who will win based on ...

Anti-SLAPP Statutes: A Report Card

February 28, 2022  •  By IFS Staff   •  ,

Our 2023 Anti-SLAPP Report Card is out now. Click the image below to find the most updated anti-SLAPP information.  

Issue Analysis No. 12: Did Citizens United Harm Political Participation?

September 20, 2021  •  By Alec Greven   •  , , ,

When the Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. FEC in 2010, many critics argued it would have a devastating impact on democracy. This analysis ...

Issue Analysis No. 11: Do Out-of-State Donations Lead to Electoral Success?

July 21, 2021  •  By Nathan Maxwell   •  , ,

This study suggests that out-of-state campaign donations are not as indicative of potential election outcomes as in-state dollars may be. Efforts to limit out-of-state ...

Has Citizens United Increased Corruption? An Examination of Public Corruption Prosecutions

September 3, 2020  •  By Alec Greven   •  , , ,

Ten years after the Citizens United decision, this report asks if opponents' claims that increased speech through independent expenditures would lead to increased corruption ...


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Political “Deepfake” Laws Threaten Freedom of Expression

January 5, 2022  •  By Alex Baiocco   •  ,

Recently, politicians have become concerned about potential widespread distribution of “deepfakes” of candidates and public officials. But, as history has shown, punishing false or ...

Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta: Questions and Answers

August 30, 2021  •  By Brad Smith   •  , , ,

This primer answers common questions about the Supreme Court's decision in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, its immediate impact on nonprofits, and possible ...

The Truth About “Microtargeting” and Political Speech: Why a Ban Is a Bad Idea

May 25, 2021  •  By Alex Baiocco   •  , ,

Targeting tools for online ads have become cheap, easy to use, and effective. This has yielded tremendous benefits for political speech and association. Some ...

Benefits of “Microtargeting”: Why Online Ad Targeting Tools Are Good for Free Speech and Democracy

May 25, 2021  •  By Alex Baiocco   •  , ,

Targeted online ads are an essential tool for Americans seeking to join forces with fellow citizens to make their voices heard. Now, some propose ...

Industry-Based Contribution Bans: Should Your Line of Work Determine Your First Amendment Rights?

September 24, 2020  •  By Heather McGuire   •  , , ,

A new and creative way to restrict speech has arrived in the form of industry-based contribution bans. These bans typically target an industry and ...

Presidential Nominating Convention Accounts’ Expenditure Limit: A Cap on Political Expression

September 9, 2020  •  By Heather McGuire   •  , ,

Although the 2020 presidential nominating conventions have concluded, the national parties will be forced to navigate both expected, inflated costs and unexpected costs in ...

“Paid For By”: Principles for Accurate and Effective Political Ad Disclaimers in the 21st Century

July 13, 2020  •  By Alex Baiocco   •  ,

Policymakers should consider the following key principles for crafting requirements that promote accurate and effective disclaimers while minimizing costs to speech, privacy, and associational ...

Citizens United After 10 Years: More Speech, Better Democracy

January 16, 2020  •  By Scott Blackburn   •  ,

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law in Citizens United that prohibited corporations and labor unions from independently voicing ...

What Would H.R. 1 Mean for My Group?

PDF available here By Eric Wang, Senior Fellow[1] One way to better understand how H.R. 1 would affect nonprofit civic and advocacy groups is ...

Regulating the Internet: A Dangerous Trend for Free Speech

August 9, 2018  •  By Luke Wachob   •  ,

The First Amendment is facing a new threat in state legislatures. A spate of bills that would regulate political and issue advertising on the ...

Academic Research

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Why Social Media Platforms are not Common Carriers

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January 5, 2023  •  By IFS staff   •  ,

Authored by Ashutosh Bhagwat   Abstract: In a recent opinion respecting denial of certiorari, Justice Clarence Thomas expressed concerns about the degree of control ...

Corporate Political Spending and State Tax Policy: Evidence from Citizens United

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August 14, 2022  •  By IFS staff   •  , , ,

Abstract To what extent is U.S. state tax policy affected by corporate political contributions? The 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ...

Do Campaign Finance Reforms Insulate Incumbents from Competition? New Evidence from State Legislative Elections

July 10, 2020  •  By IFS Staff   •  , ,

Abstract: Variations in state campaign finance regulations across states and over time provide an opportunity to test the effects of reforms on the electoral ...

Small-Donor-Based Campaign-Finance Reform and Political Polarization

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November 18, 2019  •  By IFS Staff   •  ,

Abstract: The communications revolution has led to a sudden, dramatic explosion in small-donor contributions to national election campaigns. In response, many political reformers, including ...

Risky Business: Do disclosure and shareholder approval of corporate political contributions affect firm performance?

May 8, 2019  •  By IFS Staff   •  , ,

Abstract: The role of corporations in the U.S. political process has received increased scrutiny in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ...

Why the Government Should Not Regulate Content Moderation of Social Media

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April 9, 2019  •  By IFS Staff   •  ,

President Trump recently complained that Google searches are biased against Republicans and conservatives. Many conservatives argue that Facebook and Google are monopolies seeking to ...

Transparency and Corruption: A General Analysis

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January 11, 2019  •  By IFS Staff   •  ,

Abstract: This essay makes two claims: transparency in government causes the very corruption it aims to prevent, and the problem is universal. Some scholars, ...

Curtailing the Cudgel of ‘Coordination’ by Curing Confusion: How States Can Fix What the Feds Got Wrong on Campaign Finance

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April 20, 2018  •  By IFS Staff   •  , , ,

Abstract: The theory behind laws prohibiting coordinated communications is intuitive and simple. If a candidate for office, who is subject to statutory limits on ...

Staring at the Sun: An Inquiry into Compulsory Campaign Finance Donor Disclosure Laws

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December 14, 2017  •  By IFS Staff   •  , , ,

Abstract: Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in  Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, proponents of stricter campaign finance regulation have increasingly prescribed “disclosure” ...

Free Speech Under Fire: The Future of the First Amendment

December 2, 2016  •  By Joe Albanese   •  , , ,

In a set of remarks preceded by Brooklyn Law School President and Joseph Crea Dean Nicholas W. Allard, famed First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams muses ...