Posts tagged ‘First Amendment’

Free Speech Is Killing Us


The First Amendment | US Government and Politics | Khan Academy


Violence is a real problem and a consequence of free speech. Can you imagine if people just said whatever they wanted? You’d have people mistrusting government. You might even start a violent revolution that overthrows the government, may Dear Leader forbid it!

Using “free speech” as a cop-out is intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt. Yes, free speech is a glorious pastime of our wonderful, prosperous empire, but it’s not the only one. It must be held in tension with other values, such as equality, safety, good citizenship, worshiping me, and stamping out anyone who would be foolish enough to speak up against our utopia.

Look, I am not calling for repealing free speech entirely. What I’m arguing for is silencing those whose speech your majestic rulers—namely, me—find to be potentially seditious. Only when speech is carefully policed, with your betters determining what can be said and what cannot be said, can speech truly be “free.”

Free Speech Is Killing Us

The First Amendment – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

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Free Speech

The Founders knew that liberty is never really popular, and that it cannot be entrusted to elected officials who must answer in the end to the demos, which is why they put the first liberties first, right there in the First Amendment. If we are willing to let a low-rent carny like Harry Reid take those liberties away from us, or a sanctimonious old crook like Hillary Rodham Clinton, or Elizabeth Warren, the most wooden Indian of them all, then maybe we didn’t deserve those first liberties in the first place.

From Classroom to Courtroom

First Amendment, Liberty, Free Speech

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Government by consent of the governed

There are village tyrants, as well as village Hampdens, but none who acts under color of law is beyond reach of the Constitution.
. . .
The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.

Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. Authority here is to be controlled by public opinion, not public opinion by authority.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 1943 (emphasis added)

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Look! Squirrel!

If I could reach into the heart of humankind and pluck one flaw from its unknowable depths, it would be our seemingly irresistible desire to tell one another what to do. Think of the results! The Democratic Party would vanish in an instant. The federal budget would shrink to the size of a compact car payment. And all religions would be Christianity at its best. We could still continue to enjoy our pride, lust, greed and gluttony while feeling morally superior to our neighbors’ pride, lust, greed and gluttony. We just wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. It would be like — oh, I don’t know — like living in America again. Free country. To each his own. That’s what makes for horse races. And all that.
. . .
My point is that we are in the grips of a truly corrupt, abusive, incompetent, and philosophically unAmerican administration. If it were led by a white Republican, the media would be disassembling it brick by brick — and rightly so. But it is run by a black Democrat, so instead, reporters are lying, covering up, and shouting “Squirrel!” to distract us whenever the truth starts to emerge.

I understand how emotionally satisfying it must be to win court cases like this — I do. But gay Americans (who, after all, live in the same republic, the same economy, and the same world as straight Americans) ought to get hip to the fact that this time, they’re the squirrel.

Gay Squirrel!

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Super PAC / Independent Expenditure-Only Committee (

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

Super PAC / Independent Expenditure-Only Committee

“Super PAC” is the colloquial term for “Independent Expenditure-Only Committee”.

Independent expenditures represent spending by individuals, groups, political committees, corporations or unions expressly advocating the election or defeat of clearly identified federal candidates. These expenditures may not be made in concert or cooperation with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, the candidate’s campaign or a political party.

An Independent Expenditure-Only Committee (i.e., “Super PAC”) is a registered (with the FEC) political committee that intends to make only independent expenditures. A Super PAC may not give direct contributions to any federally registered committees or candidates, with the exception of other Independent Expenditure-Only Committees. The Super PAC may solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, political committees, corporations and labor organizations for the purpose of making independent expenditures.

In July 2010, in accordance with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in SpeechNow v. FEC, the FEC approved two advisory opinions concerning the application of the Act in regards to groups solely making independent expenditures.

In AO 2010-09 (Club for Growth) (22-page PDFPDF), The Commission concluded that a 501(c)(4) corporation can establish a political committee that will make only independent expenditures and may solicit unlimited contributions from individuals in the general public.

In AO 2010-11 (Commonsense Ten) (7-page PDFPDF), The Commission concluded that a registered nonconnected political committee that intends to make only independent expenditures may solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, political committees, corporations and labor organizations for the purpose of making independent expenditures.

Any time up to 20 days before an election, if independent expenditures by a person or organization aggregate more than $10,000 in a race they must be reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) before the end of the second day following the communication’s publicly distribution. If the communications are distributed after the 20th day but more than 24 hours before the day of an election and they aggregate more than $1,000 in any race, the expenditures must be reported within one day.

When financing communications in connection with federal elections, it is important to understand that the rules differ significantly depending on whether the communication is coordinated with a candidate or party committee or is produced and distributed independently. In general, amounts spent for coordinated communications are limited, but independent expenditures are unlimited.

When an individual or political committee pays for a communication that is coordinated with a candidate or party committee, the communication is considered an in-kind contribution to that candidate or party committee and is subject to the limits, prohibitions and reporting requirements of the federal campaign finance law.

In general, a payment for a communication is “coordinated” if it is made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee or their agents, or a political party committee or its agents. 11 CFR 109.21. To be an “agent” of a candidate, candidate’s committee or political party committee for the purposes of determining whether a communication is coordinated, a person must have actual authorization, either express or implied, from a specific principal to engage in specific activities, and then engage in those activities on behalf of that specific principal. Such activities would also result in a coordinated communication if carried out directly by the candidate, authorized committee staff or a political party official. 11 CFR 109.3(a) and (b).

FEC regulations establish a three-prong test to determine whether a communication is coordinated. All three prongs of the test–payment, content and conduct–must be met for a communication to be deemed coordinated and thus an in-kind contribution.

Super PACs are a new kind of political action committee created in July 2010 following the outcome of a federal court case known as v. Federal Election Commission.

Technically known as independent expenditure-only committees, Super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Super PACs must, however, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis — the Super PAC’s choice — as a traditional PAC would. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates.

Super PACs,

Also see the First Amendment; Political Action Committee / PAC / Leadership PAC; Lobbying and Advocacy.

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Depositions in Congressional Testimony

Under certain circumstances, congressional committee staff members may choose to depose potential witnesses and scheduled witnesses. The purpose of such depositions is to gather information in order to prepare for a hearing. This is more common in investigative hearings.

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Formal in nature, such questioning of a witness is the equivalent of taking testimony in private. The deposition may be administered under oath and may also include advanced written questions as well as a full transcript. In most instances, deposed witnesses will be accompanied by legal counsel.

Any witness that is called for a deposition should ensure they have a clear understanding regarding the purposes as well as the authority for the deposition. It is often a good idea to consult legal counsel to obtain advice regarding the substance and procedure of the deposition. This will also help to ensure that the constitutional rights of the witness are protected. The practices of committees regarding depositions can vary significantly.

Witnesses who are called to testify before a congressional committee should fully understand that they have basic rights and protections provided under the U.S. Constitution and to rights provided under rules that are Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgeadopted by the Senate and the House and their committees. Basic constitutional rights include First Amendment rights to free speech, assembly and petition; Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure to obtain documents or information; and Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. This includes protection against being compelled to provide testimony against oneself that might be incriminating.

Under House and Senate rules, added protections include the right to legal counsel, the right to have counsel present to provide legal advice, the right to request that television cameras be turned off, and, in some cases, the right to refuse to be photographed. In certain circumstances, witnesses may also have the right to request that hearings be closed.

The protocol regarding the use of legal counsel during a hearing falls within the purview of each individual committee. As a result, witnesses who would like to bring legal counsel to a hearing should first consult with the relevant committee staff. In most cases, legal counsel is not necessary, but when an investigative hearing is involved and when a witness has been subpoenaed or requested to submit to a deposition, legal counsel is more frequently involved.

To learn more about preparing to testify before Congress, consider attending TheCapitol.Net’s workshop, Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, also available for custom, on-site training.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 2.50 Depositions Conducted by Committee Staff, Section 2.51 Testifying under Oath-Sworn and Unsworn Testimony, Section 2.52 Rights of a Witness.


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Free Speech: Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949)

Accordingly, a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, supra, pp. 315 U. S. 571-572, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest.

Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949) (Justia, Findlaw)

HT, Scootergate, FIRE, January 13, 2011

The Constitution of the United States: Amendment 1

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Attracting Allies to your Issue

It’s no secret that the key to gaining support for an issue in Washington is to gather as many allies as possible and then translate those allies to critical votes. Congress responds to pressure, so the more people and groups you have as allies, the greater chance you have to achieve your goals.

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When you begin with a new issue, you want to work with others who share your interest on that particular issue. Determining who is directly affected by the issue will give you an understanding of who your allies might be. Although it might seem obvious who your allies might be, this is not always the case –there can be potential allies that are less obvious.

Persuading Congress, by Joseph GibsonOnce you have identified potential allies, the next step is to get in touch with them and work towards enlisting their assistance in your cause. In many instances these potential allies may not be aware of your existence or of your issue. Lobbyists, whose job is to study every move made by Congress, can not stay on top of everything. Do not make the mistake of assuming that potential allies know about you and your issue–it is up to you to get the word out.

You also want to learn whether your prospective allies are willing to contribute resources to supporting you. It is common for people to say they have an interest in an issue but in the end they do not believe it is important enough for them to spend money or time on it. This can be a problem with organizations and companies when they feel an issue is not especially urgent or if they feel that nothing will be done about it in the near future. You can avoid this type of problem by approaching someone directly affected by the issue in the company or organization your want involved.

After you have compiled a list of people who are willing to work on the issue, get them together and develop a plan. Make sure everyone contributes something by assigning tasks and placing someone in charge of assuring those tasks are carried out.

To learn more about persuading Congress, consider our course Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, and Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson, Ch. 29 Allies

Also see

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Interest Groups, Lobbyists and Congress

Washington, DC is home to thousands of interest groups and lobbyists, all with a single goal: attempting to influence public policy. Although many do not like the idea of interest groups and lobbyists influencing Congress, it is likely that the number of interest groups and lobbyists will continue to grow. Mancur Olson made this point in “The Logic of Collective Action,” first published in 1965.

Delivering the petition to Rep. Biggert
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The most important aspect of interest groups and lobbyists is that their activity is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There is a wide variety of lobbyists and interest groups that work in Washington on a daily basis to represent the interests of a thousands of organizations and businesses. Most large businesses and labor unions employ lobbyists in-house, and thousands of lobbyists work in and with trade associations. There are hundreds of independent lobbying and law firms that provide advocacy services.

Lobbyists and interest groups can have a definite affect and influence on Congress. Because it is practically impossible for any single member of Congress to understand every aspect of a particular issue, members rely on lobbyists to provide background information and explain the way in organizations and businesses operate before they form an opinion on a particular issue.

In many cases a business or organization may actually be part of a member’s constituency, which means that when the member hears from an interest group or lobbyist they are actually hearing about the interests that affect the people they represent.

If you belong to almost any kind of national organization, you belong to a “special interest group.” And if your interest group is not represented in Washington, other organizations, including allies and Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibsonopponents, will have representatives who are active and busy in Washington trying to ensure the greatest advantage possible. Small groups are often represented through a trade association, while larger groups may employ an independent firm to represent them.

To learn more about lobbying and special interest groups as well as the influence they can have on Congress, consider our 1-day course, Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, or our 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson, Ch. 12, Interest Groups and Lobbyists.

For more information about working with Congress, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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