CFIF Tells Congress to Restore Free Speech

Because the courts have refused to protect the free speech rights of the people, Congress must do so.

March 28, 2005

Chairman Robert Ney
Committee on House Administration
U.S. House of Representatives
1309 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Ney:

I am writing to urge you to move forward with Committee consideration and approval of H.R. 1316, the “527 Fairness Act of 2005,” so that Americans’ free speech rights can begin to be restored.

As you know, so-called 527 organizations dominated the last election cycle.  From running advertisements to registering voters to getting out the vote, 527 groups and their supporters were able to participate fully in the 2004 elections.  But the same wasn’t true for countless Americans whose free speech was gagged by new campaign finance restrictions collectively known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) or McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan.

Both the purpose and effect of McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan is now perfectly clear —to restrict what Americans, through political parties and advocacy groups, can say and when they can say it.  And, because the courts have refused to protect the free speech rights of the people, Congress must do so.

BCRA’s most egregious restriction on core political speech is its ban on broadcast issue advertising by labor unions and corporations, including incorporated non-profit organizations like the Center for Individual Freedom, for 30 days prior to primary and 60 days prior to general elections.  This prohibition on so-called “electioneering communications” effectively gags citizen groups like the Center by preventing them from even mentioning the name of a federal candidate during the months before elections — just when voters want and need to learn about their elected representatives.  Indeed, the most pernicious effect of McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan is that it prevents groups of citizens from speaking to their fellow voters just when they are listening.

The instruction that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech” comes first in the Bill of Rights for a reason — because Americans must always retain the right to both criticize and congratulate our government.  Thus, the appropriate way to correct the imbalance obvious during the last election is not to restrict more speech by regulating 527 groups, but, instead, is to restore the free speech rights taken away by BCRA.

The “527 Fairness Act of 2005” begins to do just that, and that is why the Center for Individual Freedom urges the Committee to consider and approve on H.R. 1316 as soon as possible.  Millions of Americans should not be forced to sit in silence through another election.

The Center and its staff would be pleased to assist you and the Committee in any way that we can.  In particular, we would welcome the opportunity to provide written or witness testimony on BCRA’s catastrophic effects and the ways in which Congress can restore Americans’ free speech rights.  As you know, the Center has been heavily involved in the campaign finance debate for many years, including as a plaintiff in the constitutional challenge to many of BCRA’s provisions, McConnell v. FEC.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

/s/

Reid Alan Cox
General Counsel


[Posted March 31, 2005
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