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Letter to Chairman Robert Ney

The Center offers expert written or witness testimony on BCRA’s catastrophic effects on First Amendment and election law.

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September 20, 2004

Chairman Robert Ney
House Committee on House Administration
1309 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Ney:

You have announced plans to hold hearings in the coming days to consider further regulating the activities of so-called 527 organizations.

Instead of implementing further government restrictions on free speech, the Center believes that Congress should begin the process of removing the gag, and allow the kind of free and unfettered speech that the Founders envisioned when they crafted the First Amendment. The First Amendment Restoration Act (H.R.3801) is an outstanding initial step in this direction.

On behalf of the Center for Individual Freedom, I write to ask that your hearings include a discussion of the ways in which BCRA infringes on the free speech rights of countless Americans, and we urge you to consider the First Amendment Restoration Act, an appropriate first step towards restoring these rights.

Among the most egregious BCRA provisions restricting free speech is the Act’s onerous gagging of labor unions and corporations (including incorporated, non-profit organizations like the Center for Individual Freedom as well as 527 groups) for thirty days prior to primary elections and sixty days prior to general elections. BCRA’s ban on so-called "electioneering communications" effectively bars organizations like the Center from even mentioning the name of any federal officeholder or candidate for federal office during the months before elections when citizens most need to learn information about their elected representatives.

As you consider whether Congress should further restrict Americans’ free speech and association rights in the context of federal elections, we urge you to include consideration of H.R. 3801 as an alternative approach.

The Center would be pleased to assist you and your staff in any way that we can. In particular, we would be happy to provide written or witness testimony from one of our experts on BCRA’s catastrophic effects on First Amendment and election law. As you know, the Center for Individual Freedom has been heavily involved in the campaign finance debate for many years, and we were a plaintiff in the McConnell suit which challenged BCRA’s constitutionality.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.



Marshall Manson
Vice President of Public Affairs

[Posted September 22, 2004]