Free Speech For People

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Free Speech For People
Formation 2010
Headquarters Austin, TX
Location
  • United States
President
John Bonifaz
Website Free Speech For People

Free Speech For People is a partisan organization founded in 2010 to advocate for a new constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending and to repeal the doctrine of corporate personhood. Free Speech For People has expanded its work since its founding and currently engages in efforts related to legal advocacy, corporate charter reform, and anti-corruption. [1] In January 2017, Free Speech For People joined nonprofit RootsAction to launch the Impeach Donald Trump Now campaign to target corruption at the highest level of government. [2] In August, 2018 the organization released the book: "The Constitution Demands It: The Case For the Impeachment of Donald Trump," authored by Free Speech For People executive Director, John Bonifaz, Legal Director, Ron Fein, and Board Chair, Ben Clements. The organization also launched the Impeachment Project at this time, a project designed to encompass all of Free Speech For People's anti-corruption related efforts.[3]

Background[edit]

Free Speech For People was founded by Massachusetts-based attorneys John Bonifaz and Jeffrey Clements in January, 2010 in response to the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling.[4] Citizens United v. FEC is a U.S. constitutional law case dealing with the regulation of campaign spending by corporations, and was extended to include labor unions and other associations.[5] Free Speech For People supports a proposed 28th Constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United v. FEC ruling, that declares money does not equate to free speech, and corporations do not hold the rights of people.[6][7]

Amendment Work[edit]

Free Speech for People supports the Democracy For All Amendment and the People's Rights Amendment. The Democracy For All Amendment refers to a Senate amendment bill (S.J. Res. 8, 115th Congress)[8] introduced by Senator Tom Udall and an accompanying House amendment bill (H.J. Res. 31, 115th Congress).[9] The Democracy For All Amendment seeks to allow Congress to set limits on campaign spending, as existed prior to Citizens United v. Fec.

Free Speech For People also supports the People's Rights Amendment, which includes a Senate amendment bill (S.J. Res. 20, 15th Congress) [10][and an accompanying House amendment bill (H.J. Res. 88, 115th Congress).[11] The People's Rights Amendment, proposed by House Representative Jim McGovern, seeks to clarify the distinction between the rights of corporations and natural persons.[12]

Legal Advocacy[edit]

Free Speech For People also engages in legal advocacy, public education and organizing to challenge the influence of money in politics, unchecked corporate power, and presidential corruption and abuse of power.

Legislation[edit]

Recent legislative efforts include the drafting of a city ordinance, subsequently passed by the city of St. Petersburg, Florida, to abolish super PACs and ban foreign-influenced corporations from spending in local elections. The ordinance was the first of its kind, and was passed by the St. Petersburg city council after a 6-2 vote on October 5, 2017. The ordinance requires corporations that spend money in St. Petersburg elections to certify they are not foreign-influenced, or owned in whole or a significant part by foreign entities. The ordinance also establishes limits on contributions to political action committees, thereby abolishing super PACs in local elections.

Other notable legislative efforts include the Massachusetts No Excuses for Corporate Discrimination Act (Bill H.767), drafted by Free Speech For People and intended to prevent business corporations from claiming religious exemptions from anti-discrimination law.

Litigation[edit]

Some of Free Speech For People's recent and notable litigation include the case Lieu v. Federal Election Commission. On November 4, 2016, Free Speech For People, on behalf of a bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress and 2016 congressional candidates, filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission to abolish super PACs. The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., seeks the reversal of the 2010 federal appeals court ruling in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, which created super PACs.[13]

Other key cases have targeted state campaign contribution limits, such as Lair v. Motl, in which Free Speech For People filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, arguing that Montana's campaign contribution limits should be upheld to protect the constitutional promise of political equality for all. Other cases have focused on individual worker's rights, including Elster v. City of Seattle, an amicus brief filed in partnership with Demos, to defend the city against a constitutional challenge to Seattle's "democracy voucher" program, a nationally-recognized public campaign financing system enacted by voter initiative in 2015 and first used in the city's 2017 election. [14]

Corporate Charter Reform[edit]

After a report from the Mine Safety and Health Administration found that "if basic safety measures were in place there would have been no loss of life at the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster"[15] which claimed the lives of 29 coal miners,[16] Free Speech For People led efforts with the Rainforest Alliance, Appalachian Voices, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to revoke the corporate charter of the Appalachian coal mining company Massey Energy.[17]

Challenging President Trump[edit]

Impeachment Campaign[edit]

In January 2017, Free Speech For People, joined by nonprofit RootsAction, launched the "Impeach Donald Trump Now" campaign. The campaign calls upon Congress to open impeachment investigations of Donald Trump. Their petition currently has over 1.4 million signers. [18]

The nine grounds proposed are: obstruction of justice; violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution; conspiring with others to: (a) commit crimes against the United States involving the solicitation and intended receipt by the Donald J. Trump campaign of things of value from a foreign government and other foreign nationals; and (b) conceal those violations; advocating illegal violence, giving aid and comfort to white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and undermining constitutional protections of equal protection under the law; abusing the pardon power; recklessly threatening nuclear war against foreign nations, undermining and subverting the essential diplomatic functions and authority of federal agencies, including the United States Department of State, and engaging in other conduct that grossly and wantonly endangers the peace and security of the United States, its people and people of other nations, by heightening the risk of hostilities involving weapons of mass destruction, with reckless disregard for the risk of death and grievous bodily harm; directing or endeavoring to direct law enforcement, including the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to investigate and prosecute political adversaries and others, for improper purposes not justified by any lawful function of his office, thereby eroding the rule of law, undermining the independence of law enforcement from politics, and compromising the constitutional right to due process of law; undermining the freedom of the press; and cruelly and unconstitutionally imprisoning children and their families. [19]

The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump[edit]

On August 15, Free Speech For People released the book, "The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump." The book was written by Free Speech For People Legal Director Ron Fein, Co-Founder and President John Bonifaz, and Chair of the Board of Directors Ben Clements, with a foreword by The Nation's national affairs correspondent John Nichols. "The Constitution Demands It" provides the case for impeachment of Donald Trump. [20]

The Impeachment Project and other efforts to challenge President Trump[edit]

On July 10, 2018, Free Speech For People launched a new campaign called the Impeachment Project, encompassing key initiatives launched to challenge corruption. The Impeachment Project includes efforts to: launch impeachment proceedings; to press for an investigation into whether to dissolve the Trump Organization Inc.; to demand that the Federal Election Commission investigate potential coordination between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign: and to advance the Divest Trump Soho Campaign to victory. [21] In December 2016, Free Speech For People, with Campaign for Accountability, filed a complaint before the Federal Election Commission demanding an immediate investigation into whether the Russian Government illegally spent money to influence the 2016 presidential election, in possible coordination with the Trump campaign. In May 2017, they filed an updated complaint before the FEC based on new evidence. [22] The Impeachment Project also encompasses efforts related to Trump's business interests, including a call to the New York Attorney General to revoke the corporate charter of the Trump Organization, Inc. [23] Free Speech For People also led a successful campaign in California and New York, in which it called on the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and the New York State Comptroller to divest public pension funds from the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York City. After months of pressure, the private equity fund that owns Trump SoHo announced it will buy out the Trump Organization's contract to market and manage the troubled luxury condo/hotel, breaking a chain of illegal payments from state and local pension funds to the President. [24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Free Speech For People Website". Free Speech For People. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  2. ^ "Impeach Donald Trump Now Website". Impeach Donald Trump Now. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  3. ^ "Impeachment Project Website". The Impeachment Project. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  4. ^ "Citizens United v. FEC: Time for a Free Speech for People Amendment?". American Constitution Society for Law & Society. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  5. ^ "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission". Supreme Court of the United States Blog. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  6. ^ Swanson, David. "Massachusetts Legislators Back Free Speech for People (Not Corporate Persons)". Daily KOS. Daily KOS. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  7. ^ ""Free Speech for People" Coalition Calls for Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United Decision Allowing Unlimited Corporate Spending on Elections". Democracy Now. October 28, 2010. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  8. ^ "S. J. Res. 8 - 115th Congress". United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
  9. ^ "H.J. Res 31 - 115th Congress". Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  10. ^ "S. J. RES. 20 - 115th Congress". United States Congress. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  11. ^ "H.J. Res. 88 - 115th Congress". United States Congress.
  12. ^ MacNeal, Caitlin (June 19, 2013). "Citizens United Constitutional Amendments Introduced In The Senate". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  13. ^ "Lieu v. FEC Complaint" (PDF). Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  14. ^ "Litigation". Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  15. ^ "America's Most Dynamic (Yet Under-Covered) Movement: Overturning 'Citizens United'". The Nation. July 5, 2013. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  16. ^ "Years After Deadly Explosion, Coal Boss Talks Straight With Brian Ross". ABC News - Nightline.
  17. ^ Gerken, James (September 21, 2011). "Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Targets Massey Coal Company". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  18. ^ "Impeach Donald Trump Now Website". Impeach Donald Trump Now. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  19. ^ "The Case For Impeachment". Impeach Donald Trump Now. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  20. ^ "The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump". The Impeachment Project. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  21. ^ "The Impeachment Project Website". The Impeachment Project. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  22. ^ "FSFP & The Campaign for Accountability File FEC Complaint Against Russian Government and Trump Campaignhttps". Free Speech For People. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  23. ^ "Dissolve Trump Inc". Dissolve Trump Inc. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  24. ^ "Divest Trump SoHo Campaign". Divest Trump SoHo Campaign. Retrieved September 4, 2018.