You would think House Democrats' first bill would be something that polled well for their base or that the public cared about. Or maybe it would be something crazy and liberal like unofficial House Democrat spokesperson Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's idea for “reparations...for...the New Deal.” Nope. In HR 1 House Democrats made their first bill since gaining control of the House about limiting speech (and therefore criticism of them) and rigging election processes in their favor. As House Administration Committee Republicans state:
#HR1 is a “proposal to grow the federal government’s power over Americans’ political speech and elections.” #FortheDemocrats— CHA Republicans (@HouseAdmnGOP) January 24, 2019
The Institute for Free Speech has a brilliant analysis written by Eric Wang on the speech component of the monstrosity that is HR 1. But first as a lawyers’ group, we must note that this is good for two groups: incumbent Democrats and lawyers. As Mr. Wang writes:
H.R. 1’s substance further underscores how the bill would help politicians and campaign finance attorneys more than it would benefit the public. The bill would greatly increase the already onerous legal and administrative compliance costs, liability risk, and costs to donor and associational privacy for civic groups that speak about policy issues and politicians. Organizations will be further deterred from speaking or will have to divert additional resources away from their advocacy activities to pay for compliance staff and lawyers. Some groups will not be able to afford these costs or will violate the law unwittingly. Less speech by private citizens and organizations means politicians will be able to act with less accountability to public opinion and criticism.
Fortunately Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has spoken out against this legislation and it is likely to go nowhere. However, if it were to somehow pass, Mr. Wang points out that it would run afoul of the First Amendment and the Constitution. HR 1 would:
Unconstitutionally regulate speech that mentions a federal candidate or elected official at any time under a severely vague, subjective, and broad standard that asks whether the speech “promotes,” “attacks,” “opposes,” or “supports” (“PASO”) the candidate or official.
It is not just political or issue groups that would be hurt by HR 1. As Mr. Wang points out, HR 1 would:
Expand the universe of regulated online political speech (by Americans) beyond paid advertising to include, apparently, communications on groups’ or individuals’ own websites and e-mail messages.
There are many more highlights but the overriding issue is an unfortunate theme we are seeing from Democrats. Maybe it is because of spokespeople such as Rep. Ocasio-Cortez but the Democrats fear debate and facts. Instead they resort to personal attacks and hate. As we have seen with their attacks on Covington High School boys and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, they ignore legitimate debate and truth. As Mr. Wang writes HR 1 does that by:
Focus public attention on the individuals and donors associated with the sponsoring organizations rather than on the communications’ substantive message, thereby exacerbating the politics of personal destruction and further coarsening political discourse.
Those sorts of attacks cost Senate Democrats a chance to control the Senate. One wonders if this sort of legislation will cost House Democrats the House.