Tag Archives | First Amendment

What’s So Bad About a SuperPAC?

FEC Colbert Super PAC

Or, how I came to love the (money) bomb

Celebrated intellectual property lawyer and Harvard professor Larry Lessig writes at Medium:

The single most important change in American politics today is not the rise of Internet-driven, small-dollar contributions. It is the SuperPAC. The Net may have fueled Obama in 2008. (It almost gave us Howard Dean in 2004.) But all that is old school now — completely professionalized and, in the end, not the most important. What is important is the big contributions, not the small.

What is important is not Paypal, but a brand new version of a very old game — pay to play.

It astonishes me that this is a controversial statement. But it is. After 2012, many pundits declared that SuperPACs didn’t matter. Things in 2013 looked much as they did in 2012. And anyway, as speech absolutists on the right and left insist, all SuperPACs do is enable more political speech.

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Obama’s Escalating War on Freedom of the Press

Newseum 5 Freedoms 1st AmendmentThe part of the First Amendment that prohibits “abridging the freedom … of the press” is now up against the wall, as the Obama administration continues to assault the kind of journalism that can expose government secrets.

Last Friday the administration got what it wanted – an ice-cold chilling effect — from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case of New York Times reporter James Risen. The court “delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no First Amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial,” the Guardian reported.

The Executive Branch fought for that ruling — and is now celebrating. “We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: “There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify … in criminal proceedings.”

At the Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founder Trevor Timm calls the court ruling “the most significant reporter’s privilege decision in decades” and asserts that the court “eviscerated that privilege.” He’s not exaggerating.… Read the rest

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Oklahoma Teen Sentenced To Ten Years Of Church As Manslaughter Punishment

What separation of church and state? Oklahoma City’s KOCO reports on a teenager convicted of killing a friend in a drunk driving accident given the choice between jail and Christianity:

An Oklahoma teen convicted of manslaughter won’t get jail time. Instead a judge sentenced him to go to church. Tyler Allred was 17-years-old when prosecutors say he drove while intoxicated and killed his passenger, a 16-year-old friend.

A judge presiding over Allred’s case sentenced him to attend church every Sunday for the next 10 years. In addition to church attendance Allred must graduate from high school and take drug and alcohol test for the next year. The teen’s attorney does not plan to challenge the sentence.

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IRS Sued For Not Enforcing Ban On Political Endorsements By Churches

Religious institutions should have had their tax-exempt status, which is contingent on not telling congregants how to vote, stripped a long time ago. This court case is largely symbolic, but hopefully it awakens discussion on this issue. The Freedom From Religion Foundation announces its legal action against the IRS:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is taking the Internal Revenue Service to court over its failure to enforce electioneering restrictions against churches and religious organizations, calling it a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and of FFRF’s equal protection rights. FFRF filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

A widely circulated Bloomberg news article quoted Russell Renwicks, with the IRS’ Tax-Exempt and Government Entities division, saying the IRS has suspended tax audits of churches. Other sources claim the IRS hasn’t been auditing churches since 2009.

As many as 1,500 clergy reportedly violated the electioneering restrictions on Sunday, Oct.

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Are Free Speech Zones Really Free?

Raul654 (CC)

The recent DNC and GOP conventions had so-called free speech zones, but there wasn’t much freedom on offer. Ann O’Neill reports for CNN:

Shane Brown squeezed through a gap between sections of a steel security fence 9 feet high, picked his way across a vacant lot infested with fire ants and climbed atop a rickety wooden platform. He stepped up and spoke into the microphone:

“God is a good, good God.”

His words were amplified over a hardscrabble patch of earth wedged against a highway the locals call the inner loop. White plastic trash bins stood sentry against litter, but there was no one there to fill them.

Brown, the first speaker to take the platform Wednesday at the official “free speech zone” of the Democratic National Convention, had an audience of just three — two city workers and a reporter. It was shortly before 3 p.m., and the place had been deserted since it opened five hours earlier.

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CopBlock Founder Faces 21 Years in Prison on “Wiretapping” Charges for Filming Police

According to court documents, Adam “Ademo” Mueller, journalist and co-host of nationally syndicated radio talk show Free Talk Live, has been indicted on three counts of felony wiretapping. The charges are a result of a vlog Mueller posted on CopBlock.org about an incident involving alleged police misconduct, which featured recorded interviews of on-duty public officials.
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The Web of NATO, Austerity, Capitalism, Economic Hegemony and Occupy

Natalie Solidarity writes at Diatribe Media:

In perusing the online papers, the concern about the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20–21 is palpable in every word. It sticks to the sweaty skin like newspaper ink. The anxiety and fear is obvious across all strata of society.

Chicago police are already threatening violence against Occupy protesters, as documented in this audio footage of a traffic stop. Anti-protester fear mongering rhetoric abounds in the media. A Crain’s Chicago Business article reported that downtown workers have been recommended to doff their suits and ties in order to avoid becoming targets of protester violence.

The same article reported that several downtown banks will shut down leading up to and during the NATO summit. ABC reports that downtown windows are being covered with shatterproof film, high-rise balconies will be closed, entrances locked, and tenants warned to utilize constant vigilance when living their lives during May 20–21.… Read the rest

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Police State Crackdown on Occupy Oakland (Video)

Abby Martin of Media Roots went to Occupy Oakland at 4:00 a.m. to cover the second police raid and crackdown against the peaceful protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza. The footage shows the intensity in the air leading up to the raid and the insane amount of police presence that showed up to destroy the encampment. Mayor Jean Quan's legal adviser resigned at 2 a.m. in protest to the heavy police response.
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