Multiple sources have informed us that House Democrats, led by Far Left Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, plan to vote on H.R. 1, their bill to remake American election laws,
some time the first week of March.
We have two ways you can help stop this disaster: First, go to Act for America’s FreeRoots campaign and use the easy online tools to let Congress know you oppose this Un-American assault on free speech and free and fair elections. Second, call these 45 vulnerable House Democrats to politely, but firmly, demand they vote NO on HR1.
Given that the bill is almost 800 pages long, we have many specific technical and philosophical objections to H.R. 1, but most of them can be distilled down to this: H.R. 1 would set up an Un-American speech police and speech czar to monitor the political speech of everyday Americans.
Under this Democrat scheme any American who might make a political comment on their social media or personal email list, could be subject to regulation and reporting to the government and hefty fines for failure to comply.
This is contrary to the First Amendment and our traditional understanding of freedom of expression.
But don’t take our word for it. The Institute for Free Speech has done extensive analysis of the bill and its team of experienced election lawyers, constitutional lawyers and free speech advocates have produced some of the best critiques of the bill we’ve seen.
The Institute for Free Speech recently sent a letter outlining their objections to H.R. 1 to the leadership of the House Administration Committee, one of the House committees that may hold hearings on the bill. At 13 pages the letter is too long to reproduce in its entirety, but the section on the creation of a speech police Czar cogently explains why conservatives and constitutionalists should oppose H.R. 1.
If you’re a Democrat, would you have wanted Donald Trump to appoint a campaign speech czar to determine and enforce the rules on political campaigns? And if you’re a Republican, would you have wanted those rules enforced by a partisan selected by Barack Obama?
Of course not. That’s why, for over 45 years, Republicans and Democrats have agreed that campaign regulations should be enforced by an independent, bipartisan agency – the Federal Election Commission. The Watergate scandal that forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency showed the dangers of allowing one party to use the power of government against the other.
As the late Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Ca.) warned during debate on legislation creating the agency, “We must not allow the FEC to become a tool for harassment by future imperial Presidents who may seek to repeat the abuses of Watergate. I understand and share the great concern expressed by some of our colleagues that the FEC has such a potential for abuse in our democratic society that the President should not be given power over the Commission. That concern led to Congressional adoption of the present method of selecting Commission members.”
Those concerns also motivated Congress to purposefully structure the Federal Election Commission so that a president could not install a partisan majority that could abuse campaign regulations to bludgeon their opponents.
Bipartisanship is not easy. It requires both sides to recognize they will not always get their way. But for over 45 years, Republicans and Democrats on the FEC were able to succeed. Throwing this system away is reckless and presents an enormous threat to the First Amendment.
As nine former members of the Federal Election Commission with a combined six plus decades of service warned in a recent letter to Congress, H.R. 1’s attempt at “shifting the Commission from a bipartisan, six-member body to a five-member body subject to partisan control would be highly detrimental to the agency’s credibility. It would lead to more partisanship in enforcement and in regulatory matters, shattering public confidence in the decisions of the FEC. The Commission depends on bipartisan support and universal regard for the fairness of its actions. [H.R. 1] frustrates these goals with likely ruinous effect on our political system.”
In a nutshell, H.R. 1 does away with the FEC’s existing bipartisan structure to allow for partisan control of the regulation of campaigns and enable partisan control of enforcement. It also proposes changes to the law to bias enforcement actions against speakers and in favor of complainants. Specifically, Title VI, Subtitle A of H.R. 1 would:
Transform the Federal Election Commission from a bipartisan, six-member agency to a partisan, five-member agency under the control of the president. This change will likely have the effect of decreasing the Commission’s legitimacy by significantly increasing the probability that the agency’s decisions will be made with an eye towards benefiting one political party, or, at best, be perceived that way by the public.
Empower the Chair of the Commission, who will be hand-picked by the president, to serve as a de facto “Speech Czar.” In particular, the Chair would become the Chief Administrative Officer of the Commission, with the sole power to, among other things, appoint (and remove) the Commission’s Staff Director, prepare its budget, require any person to submit, under oath, written reports and answers to questions, issue subpoenas, and compel testimony.
Dispose of the requirement in existing law that the Commission’s Vice Chair come from a different party than the Chair, further allowing power at the agency to be consolidated within one party.
Expand the General Counsel’s power while eroding accountability among the Commissioners. In a departure from existing practice, H.R. 1 provides that the General Counsel may initiate an investigation if the Commission fails to pass a motion to reject the General Counsel’s recommendation within 30 days. Such a change allows investigations to begin without bipartisan support while also allowing commissioners to dodge any responsibility for their decisions by simply not taking a vote and letting the General Counsel’s recommendation take effect.
H.R. 1 also permits the General Counsel to issue subpoenas on his or her own authority, rather than requiring an affirmative vote by the Commission.
Create new standards of judicial review that weaken the rights of respondents in Commission matters. If a respondent challenges in court a Commission decision finding that it violated the law, the court will defer to any reasonable interpretation the agency gives to the statute, but if the respondent wins at the Commission, no deference will be given to the FEC’s decision, if challenged in court. This “heads I win, tails you lose” approach harms respondents and biases court decisions against speakers.
Hamstring the FEC in its advisory opinion process by mandating that interested parties who submit written comments to the Commission must be allowed to present testimony at meetings on advisory opinion requests. This change is akin to dictating to Congress who has a right to testify in committee hearings.
Establish a non-binding “Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel” to aid the president in filling Commission vacancies that is exempt from the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, effectively creating an elite committee to debate in secret, on the public’s dime, and with the imprimatur of the government whom the president should appoint to the agency.
All these changes are said to be necessary to “restore integrity” to the regulation of campaigns. In fact, nothing would more rapidly damage the FEC’s integrity than H.R. 1’s proposed restructuring. Supporters of the out party would have no confidence in the agency’s decisions, a surefire way to increase skepticism among Americans that our elections are fair and unbiased.
The Institute for Free Speech analyzed this portion of H.R. 1 in 2019 in “Analysis of H.R. 1 (Part Two): Establishing a Campaign Speech Czar and Enabling Partisan Enforcement: An Altered FEC Structure Poses Risks to First Amendment Speech Rights.” This resource provides a more detailed explanation of why Title VI, Subtitle A of H.R. 1, wrongly dubbed the “Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act,” would do the opposite. The language in the version of H.R. 1 introduced and passed by the House in 2019 for this provision is substantively similar to the text of the 2021 introduced version of H.R. 1.
We conservatives must turn up the heat on the vulnerable House Democrats, of which there are more than you might think – remember, a switch of just five votes would hand control of the House to Republicans.
We urge every CHQ reader and friend to call these Democrats at their District office to politely but firmly demand they vote NO on H.R. 1. If you can’t reach these vulnerable Democrats at their District offices, call the toll-free Capitol Switchboard (1-866-220-0044), urge them politely, but firmly, to oppose H.R. 1.
NAACP v. Alabama
For the People Act