Lawyers for two groups that back greater regulation of speech about elections filed public comments with the Federal Election Commission yesterday opposing an Advisory Opinion Request from SpeechNow.org. The independent speech group with an innovative new charter is seeking confirmation that it can advocate for or against candidates without being forced to become a political committee and limit its donations and speech under federal law.
"Americans should be able to speak freely with their fellow Americans about anything, including who should be elected to office," said David Keating, president of SpeechNow.org. "It is remarkable that these groups are asking the FEC to oppose free speech by groups of individuals speaking independently of candidates, parties, corporations and unions."
SpeechNow.org is a nonpartisan independent speech group that supports free speech and associational rights. It plans to speak out in support of candidates who favor free political speech and oppose those who back so-called campaign finance "reform" legislation that restricts the rights to speech and association.
SpeechNow.org will never donate to or coordinate with any candidate or political party, and it will fully disclose all donations and expenditures to the FEC within 48 hours of any speech urging election or defeat of any federal candidate. It will only accept donations from individuals and refuses corporate and union money, unlike other groups ruled "political committees" by the FEC and mentioned in the public comments submitted on behalf of the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21.
"Our clients might be subject to fines or even jail time if they speak about elections without guidance from the FEC," said Bradley Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics and former FEC chairman. "It should be common sense that if individuals can speak without limit, so too can groups of individuals."
The Center for Competitive Politics and the Institute for Justice represent SpeechNow.org.
IJ Senior Attorney Steve Simpson added, "The groups opposed to SpeechNow.org want to pretend the Constitution doesn’t exist, but the FEC, like any regulatory agency, is charged with interpreting the law in a constitutional manner. If Americans cannot band together to speak out in favor of or against candidates free of burdensome regulation, the First Amendment and our democratic system are in grave danger."