By Anders Gyllenhaal
After a century of building free speech rights into our laws and culture, Americans are backing away from one of the country’s defining principles.
Set off by the nation’s increasingly short fuse, students, politicians, teachers and parents are not just refusing to hear each other out, we’re coming up with all sorts of ways of blocking ideas we don’t agree with…
“When people quit listening to each other, there’s that lack of discussion and a lack of understanding,” said Bradley A. Smith, the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and professor at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio. “That’s when there’s a growing tendency to think the other side shouldn’t be able to say what they think.”…
Today’s conflicts are the most complicated yet and show no sign of easing. But as more than one scholar has pointed out, free speech is the starting place for all our other rights. We shouldn’t lose sight of what’s at stake: Without the free flow of ideas, the American experiment cannot succeed.
By Anders Gyllenhaal
By Alex Cordell
The recent controversy over a White House commission request for voter data shows many state officials support protecting the privacy of this information. However, too many states also favor new ways to violate the privacy of supporters of charities, advocacy groups, and trade associations by requiring these groups to reveal information about the names, home addresses, employers, and donation amounts of their members…
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she would “never release the personally identifiable information of New Mexico voters” and claimed she would continue “protecting the voting rights and personal privacy of our voters.”…
In New Mexico, Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver has proposed a new rule invading the privacy of supporters of groups, including charities. She wants to publicly reveal the names and home addresses of supporters of such groups for merely mentioning candidates or even publishing nonpartisan information…
It is encouraging that so many states are asserting the need to protect voter privacy from government overreach. However, we should not forget that individual privacy rights are violated every day by overreaching, poorly-written campaign finance laws.
By Edith Roberts
At the Center for Competitive Politics, Luke Wachob “discusses three consequences of an America without the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Buckley v. Valeo,” and concludes that “[p]reserving Buckley is essential to protecting the First Amendment right to free speech.”
By Bob Egelko
The Electoral College is good for democracy and regulation of political campaign financing is generally bad, one expert on election laws told a judicial conference in San Francisco on Tuesday…
Organizers of the panel on law and politics at the annual conference of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals were evidently looking for a diversity of viewpoints, and got what they were looking for…
As for regulation, Smith – author of the 2001 book “Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform” – said laws requiring disclosure of campaign contributions provide little useful information to the public. He endorsed the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that allowed corporations and unions, as a matter of free speech, to make unlimited political donations…
Ravel, also former chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, said she was particularly concerned with high-tech “micro-targeting” of voting populations, aimed at lowering their turnout with fabricated campaign ads and “fake news spread by bots.”
But Smith said voter participation was suffering because “campaigns are now centralized, in part because you have so many laws.”
Courthouse News Service: Voter Fraud Extremely Rare, Conference Panel Agrees By Matthew Renda Professor Richard Hasen, co-editor of the Election Law Journal, Ann Ravel, a law professor and former chair of the Federal Elections Commission and Bradley Smith, a professor who also formerly chaired the FEC, discussed some of the most pressing issues regarding voter […]
Santa Fe New Mexican: Rules combatting “dark money” in politics facing growing opposition (In the News)
By Steve Terrell
In an opinion piece published by The New Mexican this week, Gessing and Bradley Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics and a former member of the Federal Election Commission, wrote, “Bureaucratic rule-makings can serve an important function. They help to implement and clarify laws that are passed by the Legislature. But here, instead of implementing the law, the Secretary of State’s Office is enacting rules that were rejected in the constitutional lawmaking process.”…
Toulouse Oliver’s proposed rule is based on a bill that passed the Legislature with bipartisan support this year but was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Martinez wrote in her veto message, “While I support efforts to make our political process more transparent, the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances. The requirements in this bill would likely discourage charities and other groups that are primarily non-political from advocating for their cause and could also discourage individuals from giving to charities.”
By Bradley A. Smith and Paul Gessing
Bureaucratic rule-makings can serve an important function. They help to implement and clarify laws that are passed by the Legislature. But here, instead of implementing the law, the Secretary of State’s Office is enacting rules that were rejected in the constitutional lawmaking process. Although pitched as “political disclosure,” as Martinez wrote in her veto message in April, “the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances.”…
Nonprofit speech about candidates allows voters to hear the varied perspectives of groups that do valuable work in our communities. For a variety of religious, civic and political reasons, many donors to these organizations do not want to have their names and home addresses published online for their boss and nosy neighbors to see. Rest assured, many groups will choose silence over exposing their supporters’ private information.
Featuring Luke Wachob and Caleb O. Brown
Luke Wachob of the Center for Competitive Politics argues that the misnomer of “dark money” is hardly the scourge it’s made out to be.
By Bradley Smith and Paul Gessing
This spring, the New Mexico Legislature considered imposing new donor disclosure rules on nonprofit organizations. The measure was vetoed by Governor Martinez over privacy concerns. Now Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is attempting to impose those rules by bureaucratic fiat, using a regulation to enact what couldn’t be done through the normal lawmaking process.
Bureaucratic rules can serve an important function. They help to implement and clarify laws that are passed by the legislature.
But here, instead of implementing the law, the Secretary of State’s Office is enacting rules that were rejected in the constitutional lawmaking process. Although pitched as “political disclosure,” as Governor Martinez wrote in her veto message in April, “the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances.”
Furthermore, the rules, if adopted, will almost certainly be challenged in court…
Governor Martinez wisely chose to avoid this course of action for New Mexico. We should be cautious when considering proposals that restrict or chill charitable giving. We should especially not impose such policies through a subversion of the democratic process.
Imagine a special tax was levied on newspapers to fund vouchers that people could use to buy Fox News Channel subscriptions. Would that impact free-press rights?
The new lawsuit challenging Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” [“Suit challenges city vouchers for campaign contributions,” NWThursday, June 29] makes such hypotheticals worth pondering.
The article on the lawsuit claims that “Under the complaint’s rationale, virtually any public financing of campaigns that relies on tax revenue would be impermissible.”
But the lawsuit makes a more nuanced argument. The funding mechanism for this voucher program is unusual – a special property tax was levied to pay for it. The law does not allow that tax to be used for any other purpose.
The voucher law allows the program to be funded from general city funds. But that option is not being used. The lawsuit hasn’t challenged the use of general funds.
There are important First Amendment questions raised by the poorly drafted voucher law. Governments shouldn’t pass a special tax on a few to fund speech some oppose.
Hopefully, the court will agree.