by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
House Democrats are holding hearings on a monstrous, 571-page election- and campaign-finance-reform bill called the “For the People Act of 2019.” I can think of other, more accurate, names — like the “First Amendment Demolition Act,” or perhaps the “Federalism Repeal Act,” or maybe, most accurate of all, the “Constitutional Lawyers Enrichment Act,” because the passage of the law would trigger a full decade (at least) of litigation on numerous constitutional fronts.
At its essence, the bill federalizes control over elections to an unprecedented scale, expands government power over political speech, mandates increased disclosures of private citizens’ personal information (down to name and address), places conditions on citizen contact with legislators that inhibits citizens’ freedom of expression, and then places enforcement of most of these measures in the hands of a revamped Federal Election Commission that is far more responsive to presidential influence. …
… The bill contains a section misleadingly entitled “Stopping Super PAC-Candidate Coordination” that dramatically expands government regulation of political speech and contact with candidates for public office. These provisions not only work to flatly prohibit constitutionally protected speech, but their sheer scope would also chill a considerable amount of protected speech as law-abiding citizens try to steer clear of violating broad and vague laws.
As Bradley Smith argues in a comprehensive Institute for Free Speech analysis of the legislation, “The goal seems to be to limit discussion of candidates to the candidates and parties themselves, at the expense of the public at large.”