WyLiberty Attorneys File Lawsuit to Stop FEC Chill on Free Speech

About Steve Klein

serves as Staff Attorney and Research Counsel for the Wyoming Liberty Group.

CHEYENNE: Wyoming Liberty Group attorneys filed a lawsuit in the Wyoming federal district court today against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on behalf of Free Speech, a Wyoming grassroots organization.

“We are now at the point where individuals must register and report with the government just to criticize it,” said Benjamin Barr, WyLiberty senior counsel. “Fortunately, the First Amendment is a powerful antidote to this kind of government censorship.”

The suit, Free Speech v. Federal Election Commission, argues that vague and overbroad FEC regulations, which require grassroots groups to register as “political committees” (PACs), effectively shut down much speech in the heartland.

“The government does not have a reason to force bookkeeping, disclosure and reporting requirements on groups that only speak about political issues, even when those issues, like Obamacare, are associated with candidates,” said Stephen Klein, WyLiberty staff attorney. “The government weaves a web of complex regulations that restricts politics to so-called professionals and shuts out individuals who just want to speak publically about political issues and those in power.”

Free Speech initially asked the FEC for guidance through its advisory opinion process, submitting a number of proposed advertisements and fundraising requests to see which triggered burdensome regulations and which did not. After two hearings and three draft advisory opinions requiring over 60 days of consideration, the Commission finally issued a partial advisory opinion that did not answer most of the questions presented. The FEC could not agree on how basic parts of federal election law work, creating a problem for people nationwide by having them risk civil or criminal penalties if they guess the meaning of the law incorrectly.

“It is hard to imagine that in a free society citizens must wade through hundreds of pages of complicated rules to exercise their First Amendment freedoms,” said Barr. “We are confident that through the aggressive litigation of our clients’ constitutional rights, the FEC’s censorship will be brought to an end.”

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For more information, please contact:
Stephen Klein, staff attorney, 307-632-7020

Wyoming Liberty Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization. It has an extensive record of defending political speech in the courts, with friend-of-the-court briefs arguing against government-subsidized speech, in favor of associational privacy, and for robust grassroots advocacy. In order to enhance its position as lead counsel for Free Speech, Wyoming Liberty Group attorneys Benjamin Barr and Stephen Klein are joined by co-counsel Jack Speight, a respected Wyoming trial attorney with impressive experience in federal courts.

UPDATE (2:00 P.M.):

Download the verified complaint here
Download the exhibits to the complaint here

UPDATE (6/15, 2:30 P.M.) – PRESS COVERAGE:

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
Casper Star Tribune
Billings Gazette
The Corner (National Review)
Make No Law Blog (Institute for Justice)

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