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Coalition Letter in Opposition to H.R. 1

02/21/2019

On Wednesday, FreedomWorks sent a coalition letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signed by representatives from more than 30 organizations against H.R. 1. This legislation would have the effect of nationalizing elections, make the Federal Elections Commission a partisan entity, and have a chilling effect on political speech. Signers to the letter include Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union, Tim Chapman of Heritage Action, and David McIntosh of the Club for Growth. The text of the letter is below and a PDF of the letter and the signers can be found here.

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer,

We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of American citizens nationwide, urge you to reject the so-called “For the People Act,” H.R. 1, which would have a chilling effect on free speech in America and federalize all U.S. elections.

The First Amendment is the hallmark of our republic. The unfettered right of the people to freely criticize their elected representatives is what ensures that U.S. policymaking remains accountable to the American people. Any bill that claims to be “for the people” must recognize this basic American truth.

H.R. 1 would expose the identities of countless Americans who contribute to nonprofit organizations. This opens them up to widespread political intimidation and harassment. Brave American patriots set the foundation for our nation writing under the anonymous pen names of Publius and Brutus. They understood the value of anonymity. Members of Congress should not break with this tradition by passing a bill that would have a chilling effect on civic engagement and free speech.

Another provision of the bill would force sponsors of online political content to file duplicative, burdensome reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). It would further require impractical and inflexible disclaimers on many online ads while also likely regulating organizations’ communications on social media and their own websites. Under such a framework, the only people who could afford to speak would be those with extensive resources and a formidable legal team. This is effectively a free speech deterrent and has no place in our democracy.

The right to vote goes hand in hand with the First Amendment. H.R. 1 would further undermine the Constitution by broadly defining political “coordination.” This would effectively ban any and all nonprofits from contacting a member of Congress or their staff about any policy issue. This is a blatant assault on the ability of the people to petition their government.

Unfortunately, H.R. 1 also seeks to decrease the number of commissioners on the FEC from six to five. This will end the Commission’s long history of being a bipartisan body. As a partisan body, it could be used by the party in power to weaponize election laws against political opponents. Such an outcome would decrease public confidence in our elections. This must never be allowed to happen.

This is not the only assault on our election process. H.R. 1 would essentially nationalize elections and disregard the proper role of states and localities in determining best election practices. Not every precinct is created equal, and each has different needs to ensure it runs smoothly on election day. A one-size-fits-all fiat from the federal level would ensure chaos on Election Day and prevent many voters from having their voices heard.

H.R. 1 includes a provision that would provide candidates with a 6-to-1 taxpayer-funded subsidy for small-dollar campaign contributions. This means that taxpayers – Republicans and Democrats alike – will be forced to subsidize political campaign literature and ads with which they disagree. This could mean Democrats funding pro-Second Amendment campaign ads through their tax dollars or Republicans paying for pro-abortion ads.

There is also a provision in H.R. 1 that would allow federal bureaucrats to monitor polling places and receive payment for doing so. Federal employees, who inherently have a stake in the outcomes of elections, have no business monitoring polling places in such close proximity to thousands of voters. This is a thinly veiled form of voter intimidation.

Our nation is only a few years removed from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeting scores of Americans for their political beliefs. H.R. 1 lifts the policy rider that banned the IRS from codifying such targeting practices into law. The lesson from that scandal was to stop political targeting, not to encourage it.

Revealing the identities of donors and increasing the federal role in our election process are also not lessons to be learned from that scandal. As lawmakers who have taken an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution, we urge you to promote legislation that champions free speech, not legislation that severely limits it. This is why we, on behalf of the activists and voters we represent, ask you to oppose H.R. 1.