- Will Creeley, F.I.R.E.
When the United States government passed the Bill of Rights in 1791, its uncompromising protection of speech and of the press were unlike anything the world had ever seen before. But by 1798, the once-dazzling young republic of the United States was on the verge of collapse: Partisanship gripped the weak federal government, British seizures threatened American goods and men on the high seas, and war with France seemed imminent as its own democratic revolution deteriorated into terror. Suddenly, the First Amendment, which protected harsh commentary of the weak government, no longer seemed as practical. So that July, President John Adams and the Federalists in control of Congress passed an extreme piece of legislation that made criticism of the government and its leaders a crime punishable by heavy fines and jail time. Liberty’s First Crisis tells the story of the 1798 Sedition Act, the crucial moment when high ideals met real-world politics and the country’s future hung in the balance. Author Charles Slack discussed his latest book and answered questions from the audience.
On Thursday July 16, 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an opinion and order ending the long running “John Doe” investigation into potential violations of Wisconsin campaign finance law and whether candidates and outside groups illegally “coordinated” spending. In mid-June of 2015, a young political consultant was sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison for illegally coordinating between a congressional campaign and a Super PAC. The U.S. Department of Justice also recently announced it will look carefully at allegations of coordination between candidate and outside groups. What does all of this mean? Where is the law heading on this? Are civil and criminal investigations into campaign activity going to be increasing?
On Jun 18, the U.S. Supreme Court decided two cases with free speech implications. In Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Court held that the speech involved in a specialty license plate was government speech, and the government can regulate its content. In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, the Court held that the content-based time, size and location regulation of a church's signage did not pass strict scrutiny. Our expert discussed the details of the opinions and took questions from the audience.