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  • FEC Record: Litigation

Free Speech v. FEC (New)

July 11, 2012

On June 14, 2012, Free Speech filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming challenging the constitutionality of the Commission’s regulations, policies and practices regarding the determination of when a communication constitutes express advocacy, whether a communication is a solicitation, and whether a group is a political committee. The group seeks injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that the rules are unconstitutional, on their face and as applied.


Free Speech is a Wyoming-based, unincorporated association with a stated purpose of promoting and protecting “free speech, limited government, and constitutional accountability." The political organization plans to use individual donations to finance $10,000 in Internet, newspaper, TV, and radio ads during the months leading up to the 2012 election. Free Speech states that it will not coordinate any of its advertising expenditures and will not accept donations from foreign nationals and federal contractors. Nor will it contribute to federal candidates, political parties, or political committees.


Free Speech's suit focuses primarily on the regulatory definition of express advocacy at 11 CFR 100.22(b). The suit argues that this regulation and related FEC rules, policies and practices abridge Free Speech’s First Amendment freedoms. It also questions the Commission’s interpretation and enforcement process regarding political committee status, solicitation tests, the “major purpose” test, and express advocacy determinations. See 2 U.S.C. §§ 431(4), 431(8), 441d; 11 CFR 100.5(a), 100.52(a), 110.11(a).

The group’s main argument consists of three parts. First, it states that the Commission’s definition of express advocacy is put forth in "unclear terms leaving those who guess wrong [to be] subject to criminal or civil penalties." Secondly, it argues the Commission’s political committee registration and reporting requirements are "burdensome" for all groups whose “expenditures” aggregate more than $1,000 in a calendar year. See 2 U.S.C. § 431; 11 CFR 100.5. Lastly, Free Speech disputes whether independent expenditures must include disclaimers and be reported to the Commission. See 2 U.S.C. § 434; 11 CFR 104.4.


  • Author 
    • Alex Knott