In the News
SiriusXM Patriot: David Keating on The First Amendment in the Social Media Age
David Keating, President at the Center for Competitive Politics, speaks with Tom & Deneen Borelli about the First Amendment, Elected Officials and Social Media in light of lawsuits being filed by the ACLU on behalf of constituents who have been blocked by their elected officials.
By Alex Baiocco
The legal complaint notes that the Commission issued “a sweeping request for [Americans’] voting and other personal data, including information regarding the quintessentially First Amendment protected activities of voting history and party affiliation.”
In a statement to The Washington Post, Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn said, “The commission cannot be trusted, it has already shifted its explanation on where, and how, this First Amendment protected data will be stored.”
Based on these statements, it would appear that Common Cause understands and is genuinely concerned about the threat to First Amendment rights that exists when the government begins demanding the personal information of citizens engaging in First Amendment protected activity…
Common Cause endlessly pushes for legislation that would allow the government to collect nonprofit group members’ “personal data, including information regarding the quintessentially First Amendment protected activities” of association and political speech.
People United for Privacy: When ‘Mean Tweets’ Get Dangerous (Video)
If proposed state laws pass that would force causes like Black Lives Matter to report the names and addresses of their supporters to the government, we might have to worry about more than mean Tweets. Posting people’s personal information online could subject them to harassment and targeting–and worse–based on the causes they support.
Courthouse News Service: Elections Watchdog Says FEC Turned Blind Eye to Stealth Donor
By Eva Fedderly
Section 30122 of federal election law prohibits anyone from making a political contribution in the name of another person, but CREW says that it is exactly what happened in 2012 when the political action committee Republican Union received a $1 million donation from a Georgia woman named Sherry Huff.
Insisting that Huff lacked the assets to make such a contribution – which was 2,000 times the only other donation Republican Union received – CREW brought a complaint in 2013 with the Federal Election Commission.
The group’s new court complaint lays out the apparent scheme with a series of points about Huff’s background and employment history…
The FEC closed its file on the Republican Union complaint this past June, but CREW says the commission’s findings relied almost entirely on the joint response issued by Brown, Huff, Republican Union, the PAC’s treasurer, and Brown’s shell companies.
Calling this result arbitrary, CREW wants a federal judge to intervene…
CREW says its core activities are hindered by the efforts that election influencers take to remain anonymous, and by “the FEC’s refusal to properly administer the campaign finance laws.”
By Nik DeCosta-Klipa
In a press release Tuesday, the Maine chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced it was suing LePage after the Republican governor did not respond to their original complaint about his page illegally “censoring” constituents.
As Boston.com reported last month, the ACLU wrote a letter to LePage demanding that he stop deleting comments and blocking people from the Facebook page, “Paul LePage, Maine’s Governor.” The civil liberties group argued the actions merited unconstitutional censorship of First Amendment rights in a limited public forum.
The new lawsuit – filed Tuesday in federal court in Maine on behalf of two residents who say they were blocked – is asking the court to deem the actions unconstitutional and order LePage to stop “censoring” Facebook users and restore the posting privileges of those blocked.
“Social media has quickly become a crucial tool for constituents to express their opinions to public officials,” Meagan Sway, an attorney with the ACLU of Maine, said in a statement. “Free speech must be protected from government censorship on Facebook just as is it in any other public forum.”
By David McCabe
An eclectic group is financially backing TechDirt, a tech news site being sued for libel by the same lawyer who helped take down Gawker.
Who’s involved: The Charles Koch Foundation, Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark’s CraigConnects, Union Square Ventures, WordPress parent Automattic and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. The financial support is worth more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Why this matters: Their backing comes as some news organizations shy away from writing about a powerful or well-resourced person out of fear of a lawsuit – which some have called the Gawker Effect. This helps to chart a path for the types of publishers that can’t survive the kind of libel suits that are becoming more common in the post-Gawker age…
Techdirt’s founder, Mike Masnick, has said that the lawsuit has “already taken a massive toll on us and our ability to function and report.” To help the Techdirt weather the lawsuit, the group of philanthropies, companies and private individuals is funding a year of coverage on the site devoted to free speech issues.
Techdirt said in a statement that the case has highlighted ways in which there might be a lack of understanding among members of the public about free speech protections, sparking the new effort.
Candidates and Campaigns
By Steven T. Dennis
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, his son Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign manager Paul Manafort have started turning over documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the panel’s expanded investigation of Russian election-meddling.
The Trump campaign turned over about 20,000 pages of documents on Aug. 2, committee spokesman George Hartmann said Tuesday. Manafort provided about 400 pages on Aug. 2, including his foreign-advocacy filing, while Trump Jr. gave about 250 pages on Aug. 4, Hartmann said. The committee had asked them last month to start producing the documents by Aug. 2.
A company the Judiciary panel says has been linked to a salacious “dossier” on Trump, Fusion GPS, and its chief executive officer, Glenn Simpson, have yet to turn over any requested documents, Hartmann said.
By Rachel Siegel
Legislation to allow taxpayer-funded campaign financing for state legislative candidates has come before the Maryland General Assembly for over a decade, though no bill has ever made it beyond the senate floor.
Now a proposal that would pivot away from a statewide policy in favor of a county-by-county option is garnering favor among delegates eager to expand the public financing of elections at all levels of state government.
Such a localized approach could face legal and political roadblocks, and a specific bill has yet to be drafted. But supporters say a program could also help mitigate the influence of large donors in state politics and help propel Maryland toward statewide public financing for legislative races…
Damon Effingham, legal and policy director for Common Cause Maryland said, he worries that a localized public-financing option would “leave behind” less wealthy counties that don’t want to tax their residents to create a funding pool for legislative races.
Deseret News Utah: ACLU tells Utah members of Congress to stop blocking people on social media
By Dennis Romboy
The ACLU sent letters to Utah’s congressional delegation Tuesday telling them that blocking constituents on social media violates their free speech rights.
Complaints from Utahns in recent months about being blocked on Facebook and Twitter – specifically aimed at Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah – prompted the letters, the ACLU of Utah said.
“You and your office(s) have embraced social media as a key means of communicating and interacting with constituents and the public,” according to the letters posted on the ACLU website. “Because your social media pages are a public forum, your blocking of these individuals is an unconstitutional restriction on their right to free speech under the First Amendment.”
Hatch’s and Love’s offices said Tuesday they had not received the letter. Both pointed to guidelines on their social media pages for posting messages, which include reserving the right to ban those who violate them.
By Jane Mayer
In the latest chapter of his strange career, the League of Conservation Voters, a national environmental-advocacy group, has filed a complaint against three individuals who infiltrated its operations, at least two of whom, the group alleges, “could be associated with” O’Keefe and have past ties to him. The group’s leaders recently began to suspect that they were being scammed, and decided to go to the authorities before O’Keefe or his alleged associates released any material on their own.
In a six-page letter of complaint sent to the California Department of Justice on Friday, the League of Conservation Voters, or L.C.V., asked the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, to open a criminal investigation into the operatives for potential fraud, racketeering, unfair business practices, trespassing, invasion of privacy, and possible violation of the state’s two-way-consent eavesdropping laws. The environmental group filed the letter in California because the “imposters,” as it labelled the operatives, first made contact with the organization through its state branch in the San Francisco Bay Area. A spokesperson for the California Department of Justice declined to comment, as is its policy on potential criminal investigations.
By Editorial Board
While his move can be viewed as an understandable and inevitable outgrowth of the reality of how tangled campaign finance laws corrupt our politics, we wish the treasurer had set a better example and not led us down this path – for others surely will follow.
As The Denver Post’s Mark K. Matthews reported, the Republican plans to appear at a high-dollar fundraiser on Aug. 21 on behalf of BetterColoradoNow, an independent expenditure committee that seeks to cause trouble for Democratic candidates. Stapleton is doing so even though he hasn’t made his candidacy official. His coyness allows him to avoid rules that prohibit cooperation between such committees and candidates…
With Amendment 27, Colorado voters made abundantly clear they wanted to rein in cash in politics. Overwhelmingly passed in 2002, the law presently caps individual gifts to gubernatorial candidates at $1,150. That’s one of the lowest limits in the country, and experts question whether such anemic allowances could survive a court challenge that argued the strictures violate constitutional free speech protections. (Lawmakers should consider posing the question of more reasonable limits to voters in the coming session.)