Free Speech Under Attack

If we are to remain a free people, we need the foundation of the First Amendment. Free Speech guarantees every individual the freedom to express private opinions and beliefs publicly. Without public discourse and the freedom of associations, we will lose the greatest gift from our founding fathers.

Recent blog posts

Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, joins the chorus of campaign finance “reformers” who are concerned about the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court, claiming that his “record on money in politics . . . raises significant concerns among legal experts.” (Some legal experts, that is.) Moreover, Hobert Flynn asserts, “[Gorsuch’s] champions indicate he'll protect the privileges of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyday Americans.”

Well, that’s rich: Common Cause has led the way to empowering entrenched political interests over the less wealthy and less politically connected. Their experiment in Colorado proves the point.

Less than a year ago, Norm Eisen, in his capacity as a fellow at the Brookings Institution, convened a campaign finance “Solutions Summit” that brought together a meeting of regulation advocates whose supposed solutions differ about as much as Oxford blue and Midnight blue. It wasn’t a conference; it was a trade show. Around the same time, Eisen co-authored an op/ed repeating an ever-recurring refrain to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which enabled corporations and unions to independently speak out about candidates for office. The vitriol directed at corporations by reformers in the wake of the case is difficult to understate.

But a strange thing happened yesterday: Norm Eisen found a reason to love at least one corporation, Nordstrom.

Proponents of campaign finance regulation often base their quest on a nebulous term, “our democracy.” Though undefined, it is meant to serve as a pleasant-sounding, self-evident justification for any and all forms of political speech regulation. But the latest reformist outrage against the South Dakota Legislature reveals the weaknesses of any democracy and callous disregard for the bulwarks that keep democracy in line with freedom.

AUSTIN, Tex. – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, issued two decisions late yesterday in the cases of David and Stacy Cary, both appeals for bribery convictions relating to political campaigning. Both decisions acquit the Carys, ruling that the evidence was legally insufficient to uphold their convictions. The Pillar of Law Institute filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief in Stacy Cary’s case, which was cited in the court's opinion.

The Irreparable Harm of Wisconsin John Doe

Posted by on in Political Speech

The Wisconsin "John Doe" campaign finance inquisition is a sordid tale, one of the most jarring examples of the criminalization of politics in American history. Using a secret process usually reserved for investigations of organized crime like drug trafficking, prosecutors in Wisconsin targeted a number of politically-engaged citizens with tactics that included raids of their homes and seizures of vast troves of documents. Though neighbors witnessed the raids, the targets were prohibited from speaking about the investigation. Some, thankfully, broke these gag orders, and with the end of the case other victims are now speaking out.

DENVER, CO – The Pillar of Law Institute won a preliminary injunction this evening against the enforcement of a Colorado law against “ballot selfies,” photographs of one’s own marked ballot usually displayed on social media.

“This is a big victory for Coloradoans, allowing them to unquestionably express their support for candidates and causes in this election,” said Stephen Klein, Pillar attorney and co-counsel in the case. “Today, free speech won.”

One year ago today, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in the state, heard oral argument in Cary v. Texas, an appeal consolidating two criminal cases involving a husband and wife, David and Stacy Cary.

And there the case has sat, with no ruling from the court. The wheels of justice grind ever-so-slowly, leaving important issues of political speech unresolved in the Lone Star State.

DENVER, CO – Pillar of Law Institute joined a team of attorneys to represent several Colorado citizens in federal court today, arguing for a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of Colorado’s ballot exposure law. Three voters—Scott Romano, Colin Phipps and state senator Owen Hill—argued that the law unconstitutionally prohibits “ballot selfies,” photographs of one’s own ballot that are usually posted to social media.

CINCINNATI, OH – The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted a request this evening from Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to stay a preliminary injunction against enforcing election prohibitions again “ballot selfies,” photographs voters take of their own marked ballots and often post online. The ruling, in the case Crookston v. Johnson, followed an emergency appeal from the injunction, which was issued Monday by Judge Janet T. Neff of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

“Ballot selfies are once again illegal in Michigan,” said Stephen Klein, Pillar attorney and lead counsel to Crookston in the case. “I congratulate the Michigan Attorney General and Secretary of State for their successful effort to uphold censorship.”

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