SpeechNow.Org

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

SpeechNow.Org is a front group founded by Club for Growth Executive Director David Keating. SpeechNow presents itself as a concerned group of average Americans, but is actually a front group for extreme anti-tax right wingers.

SpeechNow's Formation

Club For Growth was sued by the FEC in 2005 and fined for violating the fair election laws enacted in the wake of the Watergate scandal. In turn, Club For Growth’s Keating formed SpeechNow as a front group to challenge these fair election laws, suing the FEC in 2008 with high powered right-wing attorneys.

Speech Now Website Misleads

SpeechNow’s website piously states that the group receives no corporate donations, but taking such a pledge requires no sacrifice when it is supported by DC’s Club for Growth, which receives funding from the Wall Street special interests and secret corporate dollars that have been corrupting this election. The site also states that Speech Now is "an all volunteer group, with a tiny overhead;" however, the group is allowed to be "all volunteer" because its leaders are bankrolled by Club For Growth's big corporate spenders. [1] SpeechNow’s David Keating is paid almost $200,000 a year in his role as Club For Growth’s Executive Director. (Club for Growth, which wants to put the social security trust funds into Wall Street’s hands, has been criticized as so out of step on economic policy by conservative presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (and FOX News commentator) that he dubbed it “Club of Greed.”)

According to its website, “Keating formed SpeechNow.org to give Americans who support free speech a way to join together, pool their resources, and advocate for federal candidates who agree with them—and work to defeat those who do not.” [2]

Apparently, though, there are only three “Americans who support free speech:” the $125,000 SpeechNow is spending on Russ Feingold attack ads came from only three donors— $100,000 from Young Radiators heir Fred Young, $5,210 from Keating himself, and $10,000 from Jim Gilmore of San Francisco. [3]

Despite the group presenting itself as being terribly concerned with "free speech," the Feingold ad makes only a passing mention of free speech, instead claiming Feingold votes along party lines.


FEC v SpeechNow.Org

In early 2010, just after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on SpeechNow’s case, applying Citizens United for the first time and considerably expanding the reach of that decision. While Citizens United permitted corporations and outside interest groups (like Club For Growth) to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, the Ninth Circuit’s SpeechNow.org v FEC case lifted restrictions on the amount of money that can flow into these groups.

The SpeechNow.org v. FEC decision made it possible for corporations to obfuscate their political spending by funneling their money through the cleverly-named outside interest groups that have populated the 2010 election landscape, such as the “American Action Network” and “American Crossroads.” Thanks to SpeechNow.org v. FEC, corporations have been allowed to hide behind these groups rather than directly and transparently spending money on campaign advertising. To a certain extent, this contradicts the right-wing Supreme Court justices who held that a major justification in Citizens United for treating corporate political spending as "speech" was the belief that shareholders could monitor where CEOs were directing a corporation's political expenditures.

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Speech Now's Appeal of a Sub-Part of the Decision

Despite its 9th Circuit victory, Speech Now took issue with the ruling that it would still have to comply with the disclosure requirements that apply to 527 Political Action Committees (527 PACs must disclose their donors, unlike groups formed under the 501(c) section of the tax code). Speech Now appealed this sub-part of the decision, but the Supreme Court denied cert.


Contact

SpeechNow.org
P.O. Box 18773
Washington, D.C. 20036

David@speechnow.org

References

  1. "donate" page, SpeechNow.Org website, accessed October 19, 2010.
  2. About Us, SpeechNow.Org website, accessed October 19, 2010.
  3. SpeechNow FEC Filing, Oct 15, 2010, available from FEC website.