CHEYENNE –WyLiberty attorneys filed a motion for preliminary injunction in Free Speech v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), a case that began in Wyoming federal court last month. The motion calls for a nationwide injunction against campaign finance regulations that require grassroots groups to register and report with the federal government just to criticize it.
“It is hard to believe that in America we permit a bureaucracy to exist that regularly shuts down political debate – speech at the very core of the First Amendment,” said Benjamin Barr, counsel to WyLiberty. Free Speech v. FEC is about freeing grassroots groups nationwide from the grip of federal censorship.”
Supporting the motion is an extensive memorandum detailing numerous constitutional problems with the FEC’s regulations, which allow the FEC to delve into advertisements about political issues and decide whether or not the ad is actually “express advocacy” for the election or defeat of a candidate for office. If a group engages in enough express advocacy it must comply with burdensome registration and reporting requirements as a “political committee.”
“But no one can predict what’s express advocacy and what isn’t,” said Steve Klein, co-counsel to Free Speech. “The regulations are vague, and the FEC’s history of enforcing the regulations only makes things vaguer. Even experienced politicos and attorneys can’t figure them out, and that’s just the way the government wants it: if citizens can’t understand the rules, the Commission can make them up as it goes along.”
Since the Free Speech case began, the case has grown more significant. Recently, the Obama campaign and Democratic National Committee filed a complaint against Crossroads GPS, a nationwide issue advocacy group, charging that it must register and report with the government under the same regulations challenged by Free Speech.
“The complaint against Crossroads GPS is telling,” said Barr. “Instead of engaging on the issues, the Obama campaign wants to tie up a group in the FEC’s enforcement process. The more time and money any group has to spend on defending itself, the less it has to spend on getting its message heard. The First Amendment was designed to protect against this very harm.”
The Free Speech case has been assigned to Judge Scott Skavdahl in Casper.
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Benjamin Barr, of counsel, Benjamin.firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Klein, staff attorney, ,