DownsizeDC.org
January 17, 2017
The First Amendment is ILLEGAL during these 90 days
By Jim Babka

We’ve been defeating incumbent protection schemes. Here we go again. RETWEET

We’ve been chipping away at bad campaign finance regulations that go under the heading of “electioneering communications.” We’ve won several cases on this issue. Now we have a chance to kill these regulations permanently. This message will explain...

  • What “electioneering communications” is, and why it’s awful
  • What we’ve done to roll back this evil
  • How our new amicus brief in the case Independence Institute v. FEC could kill off these “regulations” permanently

We're partnering with the Downsize DC Foundation (and others) to file a brief in the case Independence Institute v Federal Election Commission. Here's the story…

Congress passed a hideous campaign finance bill in 2002: the “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act” (BCRA). This bill was pure [Crushing competition]incumbent protection, designed to entrench The Establishment by silencing the people.

We organized plaintiffs and challenged BCRA in court. Our plaintiff group, Ron Paul v FEC, was joined by nearly a dozen others in a case heard by the Supreme Court. Alas, the Justices affirmed BCRA. But we kept fighting...

We filed an amicus brief in the Wisconsin Right to Life v FEC case in 2007...

In it, we attacked the Electioneering Communications provisions of BCRA. These provisions prohibited ads (or any type of broadcast) that mention politicians who happen to be running for re-election during the 30 days before a primary or 60 days before the general election. Please notice...

The establishment news media does not have to be silent in this way during this period. They are free to continue raising and spending unlimited amounts of money on communications that report about, praise, or condemn officials running for re-election. They can do this because of their First Amendment freedom of the PRESS. Guess what?

You too have a freedom of the PRESS!

You should be able to join with others to raise and spend unlimited amounts to express political opinions. That is freedom of the PRESS!

And the argument which you just read -- that Free Press is a distinct, individual right -- is unique to us. In fact…

Everyone else who has questioned these incumbent protection schemes has focused on the freedom of speech aspect. And their argument has failed plenty. Their critics argue that "Money isn't speech." But it's much harder to argue that a press -- whether it be a publication or a broadcast -- doesn't cost money.

We used our freedom of the PRESS argument in Ron Paul vs. FEC and again in Wisconsin Right to Life v FEC. And...

We won a narrow victory!

The Court ruled that non-profit groups can distribute "issue ads," so long as they don’t expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate. But the Court also said that such groups still had to file reports with the FEC first.

But that is like having to obtain a "license" to run a press that expresses political opinions. So there was still more work to be done and the opportunity to do that work soon arrived...

We played a crucial role in the Citizens United decision

Citizens United made a movie about the personal life and record of Hillary Clinton. They did not advocate for her election or defeat, though the movie was clearly unflattering. The FEC ruled that the movie was banned from broadcast, mostly because it raised money outside of the Electioneering Communications rules.

We filed the only briefs in Citizens United v FEC that argued for the freedom of the PRESS. And…

Our argument prevailed! The majority ruling cited prior press cases and employed traditional freedom of the press arguments, just like those UNIQUELY found in our brief.

And while the celebrity attorney working for the plaintiffs avoided asking the Justices to overturn Austin v Michigan Chamber of Commerce, we weren't shy. We asked directly, and the Justices agreed with us. As a result...

Think tanks and other corporations no longer need to create segregated funds to pay for issue ads. Our arguments effectively killed the broadcast prohibition. The "blackout periods" were gone. But a key aspect of Electioneering Communications remained...

Groups, including your favorite think tank, still have to register with The State before they can exercise their freedom of the PRESS.

That's what is at stake in Independence Institute v. FEC. Here are the facts…

  • The Independence Institute is a think tank.
  • They tried to run radio ads about an upcoming Congressional vote.
  • The ads were about the Justice Safety Valve Act -- a bill that would prevent unjust sentences and reduce prison overcrowding by permitting federal judges to issue sentences lower than the mandatory minimum.
  • Members of Congress were reluctant to support the bill, fearing they'd be seen as soft on crime.
  • Independence Institute sought to demonstrate to Colorado's Senators that there was public support for the bill. However...
  • One of the two of them was in a re-election campaign.
  • The FEC contends this is Electioneering Communications and that Independence Institute must first register and then file detailed reports with them.

Must organizations that you support expend energy and funds filling out compliance forms to effectively obtain a "license" to exercise their press rights? Traditional media companies don’t have to do this, so why should you and the groups you support?

Now, if this case seems familiar to you, it's because we filed an earlier amicus brief about it last summer, at the District Court level. The case is now at the Supreme Court, and we need to file a new brief. Can you...

Make a contribution to the Downsize DC Foundation to fund this legal work?

In order for us to succeed, we'll likely need…

  • At least one patron who gives $2,000 or even $1,000, OR
  • One to three donors who contribute at least $500, OR
  • 50 or so contributions of varying size -- every bit counts!

Please, help us make this brief possible.

  • Your contribution to our partner, the Downsize DC Foundation, is tax-deductible.
  • We accept corporate and personal contributions.
  • As you'll see on the Zero Aggression contribution form, we take Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, Bitcoin, PayPal, checks, and appreciated securities.

Note: We use the secure, online form of the Zero Aggression Project so that contributions can be tax-deductible for those who itemize.

Thanks for your consideration and support,

Jim Babka, President
Downsize DC Foundation
& DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

Blog commenting is currently under construction. In the meantime, you can send an email if there's something you'd like to tell us.

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