CASPER –Wyoming Liberty Group attorneys Benjamin Barr and Stephen Klein attended a hearing before Judge Scott Skavdahl in Wyoming federal district court, arguing for a preliminary injunction in the case Free Speech v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), yesterday. Judge Skavdahl took the arguments under consideration and noted the importance of issuing a timely decision.
“The FEC’s attorneys believe that Free Speech is a political committee, and that it should register and file regular reports with the agency just to speak,” said Klein. “Free Speech wants to speak frankly about issues and how they relate to candidates, but does not have the money to pay for accountants and election lawyers to help them navigate the FEC’s red tape. This kind of speech regulation violates the First Amendment.”
Free Speech filed suit in June, following an inconclusive advisory opinion from the FEC that did not answer whether or not Free Speech must register and report. Although the FEC commissioners could not agree on whether or not Free Speech was regulated, the FEC could still bring an enforcement action if Free Speech did not comply. “It’s not a grant of immunity,” noted Judge Skavdahl.
“That the FEC cannot give sensible guidance about basic elements of federal election law while insisting that every American carefully follow its rules is absurd,” said Barr. “Real penalties, criminal and civil, exist if you speak ‘too much’ or in a manner deemed incorrect by the Commission. We are confident that the First Amendment will protect Free Speech and grassroots speakers nationwide from this sort of abuse.”
Barr and Klein represent Free Speech, a Wyoming grassroots group that wants to discuss numerous issues this fall through newspaper, radio and television advertisements, but is unsure of what regulations it must follow under federal election law.
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