Non-profit

Free Speech for People

Location:

AUSTIN, TX

Tax ID:

45-0709993

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $1,404,660
Expenses: $1,314,634
Assets: $900,951

President:

John Bonifaz

Free Speech For People is a left-of-center advocacy group that supports expanding campaign finance regulations, including constitutional amendments to limit campaign spending by private individuals and organizations. [1] Free Speech For People was founded on the same day that the Supreme Court decreased restrictions on campaign spending through Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and aims to overturn the decision. [2] Free Speech For People has also pushed to impeach President Donald Trump, beginning a movement for impeachment on the day of his inauguration. [3]

Free Speech For People is led by a team with strong ties to the political left. John Bonifaz, founder of Free Speech For People, is the founder and former executive director of the National Voting Rights Institute (NVRI), a left-of-center electoral advocacy group. [4] Free Speech For People chairman Ben Clements also sits as a board member for Stop Handgun Violence and works on the advisory committee of the Boston chapter of the American Constitution Society[5] Steve Cobble, senior political advisor for Free Speech For People, is an assistant fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-wing think tank. [6] Cobble is also a co-founder of Progressive Democrats of America, an organization that aims to support the Democratic Party and advocate for an agenda focused on fighting climate change and expanding public healthcare. [7] [8]

History

Free Speech For People was founded in 2010 on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission (FEC) decision that struck down certain restrictions on spending related to elections by businesses, certain nonprofits, and labor unions. [9] Attorneys John Bonifaz and Jeff Clements co-founded the organization with the express goal of passing a constitutional amendment to limit election spending. [10] [11] [12] The amendment would overturn the decisions in both Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo, which ruled that limitations on expenditures for one’s own election violate the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. [13]

Aside from supporting a constitutional amendment, Free Speech For People advocates for various left-of-center campaign finance reforms to limit the influence of campaign spending at the federal, state and local level. [14] Free Speech For People has also embraced a left-of-center agenda more broadly, lobbying for President Donald Trump’s impeachment from the day he took office in 2017.

Leadership

Free Speech For People, though purportedly nonpartisan, is led by a group of activists involved in left-of-center organizing. John Bonifaz is the co-founder and president of Free Speech For People. Bonifaz previously founded and worked as the executive director of the National Voting Rights Institute (NVRI), another organization that seeks to limit campaign spending. [15] NVRI led an unsuccessful push to force Ohio to recount its 2004 presidential ballots to dispute the victory of President George W. Bush. [16]

Ben Clements is the chairman of Free Speech For People. Clements is a private attorney who also worked as first chief legal counsel to former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D). Clements is involved in other left-of-center organizations as well, sitting as a board member for Stop Handgun Violence and as an advisory committee member of the Boston chapter of the American Constitution Society[17]

Free Speech For People’s senior political advisor Steve Cobble is an assistant fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-wing think tank. [18] Cobble is also a co-founder of Progressive Democrats of America, an organization that aims to support the Democratic Party and push an agenda focused on promoting environmentalism and expanding public healthcare. [19] [20] Cobble has written for left-of-center publications including The Nation and The Progressive. [21] Early in his career, Cobble organized on behalf of several left-of-center political candidates, working as a delegate coordinator for Jesse Jackson’s left-wing presidential campaign in 1988. [22]  Cobble has organized within the mainstream Democratic Party as well, working on the presidential campaigns of both George McGovern and Dennis Kucinich. [23]

Other Free Speech For People senior staff members have been involved in left-of-center organizing as well. Senior advisor on election security Susan Greenhalgh previously worked for Verified Voting and at the National Election Defense Coalition, two left-of-center organizations focused on elections. [24] Oske Buckley is the director of administration and finance for Free Speech For People. [25] Buckley previously worked for Voter Action, and for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas and Western Missouri. [26]

Political Advocacy

Dissolution of Super PACs

In July 2020, Free Speech For People joined 16 states and six Democratic senators in litigation aimed at persuading the Supreme Court to abolish super PACs. [27] Free Speech For People has also advocated for a range of left-wing constitutional amendments, including the abolition of the Electoral College and the establishment of a government campaign funding system for all federal candidates. [28]

Targeting President Trump

Much of Free Speech For People’s work after the 2016 election focused directly on targeting President Donald Trump. Free Speech For People established a petition calling for the California and New York state retirement systems to divest from Trump SoHo, a subsidiary of the Trump Organization. [29] The petition claimed the investments violate the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution and fund Donald Trump directly. [30] Free Speech For People has since called for the entire Trump Organization to be dissolved by the state of New York. [31]

In 2017, Free Speech For People began a partnership with left-of-center organizing group RootsAction ahead of Trump’s inauguration. The moment Trump took the oath of office, the two organizations launched the website ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org, a grassroots initiative to gain support for the impeachment of President Trump. [32]  The following year, Free Speech For People released The Constitution Demands It: The Case For The Impeachment of Donald Trump, a book written by Bonifaz, Clements, and Fein arguing for impeachment. [33] In Free Speech For People’s 2019 End of Year Update the group took credit for helping to “build” the impeachment movement that led to the then-pending House of Representatives vote to impeach President Trump. [34]

References

  1. “The Democracy Amendments.” Free Speech For People, June 15, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/democracy-amendments/. ^
  2. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  3. Gold, Matea. “The Campaign to Impeach President Trump Has Begun.” The Washington Post. January 20, 2017. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/01/20/the-campaign-to-impeach-president-trump-has-begun/ ^
  4. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  5. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  6. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  7. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  8. “About PDA: Progressive Democrats of America.” Progressive Democrats of America. Accessed September 24, 2020. https://pdamerica.org/about-pda/. ^
  9. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  10. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  11. Editorial Board. “Dump ‘Citizens United.’” The Nation. January 20, 2012. Accessed September 6, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2012/01/20/145504318/the-nation-dump-citizens-united ^
  12. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  13. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  14. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  15. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  16. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  17. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  18. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  19. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  20. “About PDA: Progressive Democrats of America.” Progressive Democrats of America. Accessed September 24, 2020. https://pdamerica.org/about-pda/. ^
  21. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  22. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  23. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  24. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  25. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  26. About Free Speech for People. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/about/ ^
  27. Swann, Sara. “New Longshot Bid Tries to Persuade Supreme Court to Rein In Super PACs.”

    The Fulcrum. July 23, 2020. https://thefulcrum.us/campaign-finance/super-pac-supreme-court ^

  28. “The Democracy Amendments.” Free Speech For People, June 15, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/democracy-amendments/. ^
  29. Free Speech for People. MoveOn. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://sign.moveon.org/partnerships/free-speech-for-people ^
  30. Free Speech for People. MoveOn. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://sign.moveon.org/partnerships/free-speech-for-people ^
  31. “Dissolve the Trump Organization.” Free Speech For People, June 4, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/revoke-trump-charter/. ^
  32. Gold, Matea. “The Campaign to Impeach President Trump Has Begun.” The Washington Post. January 20, 2017. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/01/20/the-campaign-to-impeach-president-trump-has-begun/ ^
  33. “The Impeachment Project.” Accessed September 6, 2020. https://www.impeachmentproject.org/ ^
  34. “2019 End of Year Update.” Free Speech for People.” Accessed September 6, 2020. https://freespeechforpeople.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2019-annual-report-.pdf ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Katie Redford
    Advisory Board Member
  2. James Gustave Speth
    Legal Advisory Committee Member
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: January 1, 2013

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990 $1,404,660 $1,314,634 $900,951 $39,686 N $1,319,923 $0 $0 $173,408 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $1,029,271 $1,194,930 $818,485 $47,246 N $1,027,930 $0 $0 $173,369
    2015 Dec Form 990 $1,143,897 $945,826 $993,136 $56,238 N $1,123,522 $0 $0 $178,231 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $1,043,276 $920,464 $772,053 $33,226 N $1,016,691 $0 $0 $157,500 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $795,684 $180,020 $661,207 $45,192 N $708,954 $0 $0 $36,346 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990EZ $0 $16,684 $351 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990EZ $78,000 $60,965 $17,035 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Free Speech for People

    505 WEST 38TH ST UNIT A4
    AUSTIN, TX 78705-1319