Wyoming Liberty Group
WyLiberty Attorneys File Brief in Wisconsin Free Speech Case
MADISON, WI – Wyoming Liberty Group attorneys filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief in the Wisconsin Supreme Court today in Three Unnamed Petitioners v. Peterson, a case consolidated with two others in what has become known as the “Wisconsin John Doe Investigation.” The prosecution in each case alleges illegal campaign finance coordination between political groups and ostensibly members of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign. WyLiberty’s brief argues that Wisconsin law governing coordination is unconstitutionally overbroad, and the latest effort to criminalize political participation.
“The law requires Wisconsin citizens to swear they are not coordinating with candidates or campaigns before they speak out about political issues,” said Ben Barr, lead counsel to WyLiberty. “But ‘coordination’ under the state’s law includes everything from speaking out while working on a campaign or speaking out after discussing issues with a candidate. Basically, Wisconsin threatens what most Americans consider honest civic engagement.”
In the celebrated Citizens United case in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government could not place limits on “independent expenditures”—speech that calls for the election or defeat of candidates—by corporations and unions. However, messages that are coordinated with campaigns are considered contributions to campaigns, and may be regulated.
“With caps lifted on how much people can speak out, Wisconsin prosecutors are now bent on re-defining as many forms of communication as they can into contributions, which can still be limited,” said Steve Klein, WyLiberty staff attorney. “They’re ignoring the Supreme Court’s broad rulings for free speech and cases that have specifically narrowed what constitutes coordination. This case is but another attempt to make an end-run around free speech, and like every other effort it should fail.”
Founded in 2008, the Wyoming Liberty Group has directly represented clients in numerous free speech cases and has weighed in as a friend-of-the-court in free speech cases nationwide. Late last year, its efforts played an instrumental role in overturning the conviction of Tom DeLay for money laundering in Texas.
Matthew Fernholz, of the law firm Cramer, Multhauf & Hammes in Waukesha, Wisconsin serves as local counsel on the brief.