January 1995

The constitutional principles embodied in the First Amendment are under threat. By direct assault or by dint of overwhelming regulation, regulations and laws today prevent the free exercise of the right of assembly, the freedom of speech and the right to petition government for the redress of grievances.

We anticipate that the impulse to regulate will continue to be strong -- whether the ostensible purpose is to protect unwary consumers, to police a government definition of truth, or to simply discourage political dissent, the fight will be ongoing. To those concerned about the continued ability of Americans to band together to pursue a common goal, the Free Speech Coalition opens its doors.

We seek the membership of concerned nonprofit groups, concerned corporations and individuals. Part of our strength comes from our diversity, gathering members from groups generally known as of the left and of the right, plus many solidly "nonpartisan" organizations as well.

We believe that the papers and dialogue from our conference printed in this publication will be illuminating for some years. As this is published, however, there are several illustrative threats facing nonprofit groups that are worth listing.

What if nonprofit direct mail on issues could no longer be mailed using the special third class rate? This was proposed by Senator Ted Stevens, new Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Services, Post Office and Civil Service.

What if a nonprofit's educational-program mailing mentions fundraising in only 5% of the entire piece but it must account the total expenses of the mailing as fundraising?

What if all states adopt Hawaii's massive restrictions on renting mailing lists and prospect mailing? (A group must now get permission from an individual in that state before mailing a request for support to him/her.)

And what if other states follow Utah's law requiring all those who raise funds be finger printed?

What if all states, like Kentucky, require background checks on all fundraisers?

What if donors' names and donation amounts would have to be disclosed to a new the Office of Lobbying Registration and Disclosure? The 1993/4 Lobbying Disclosure Act would have imposed that requirement on all registrants.

What if a nonprofit group advocates any policy changes? If the Clay Amendment passes, affected nonprofit will have to complete the same forms required by political committees, filing quarterly with the Federal Election Commission; disclose donors, and be subject to massive FEC penalties.

NASCO (The National Association of State Charitable Officers) wants Congress to give state regulators access to all confidential IRS Audit and examination records of 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) groups. If a nonprofit is subject of an IRS audit, should state officials be given a fishing license to look at all that data?

"Not Printed or Mailed At Taxpayer expense," on third-class mailings constitutes misrepresentation according to Senator David Pryor.

What if all states, like Tennessee, require registering professional fundraisers at $1,000 per year? And all states, like Washington state, require a $15,000 bond for all who raise funds?

How long will it be before all states require the detailed language in fundraising contracts and certified audits of nonprofits that Pennsylvania does?

What if all cities adopt Columbus, Ohio's new law and require all nonprofit groups who mail into that community to register and file reports quarterly?

These actions put the freedom of speech, the right to petition government for redress of grievances, and the freedom of assembly in jeopardy. What nonprofits are all about is to speak the language of the public and to inform government of what the public wants. We are concerned that certain legislators are ready to sacrifice the public's ability to make its voice heard.

These issues exist; and they came about because there was no voice of opposition. Nonprofits didn't get involved. Now we, as nonprofits together -- and others concerned about them -- can create the power and noise to prevent the loss of our freedom.

Here are three examples of FSC's successes. We defeated a proposal requiring nonprofit organizations that do any policy advocacy to file with the FEC. We also mobilized massive opposition against the Stevens proposal to eliminate special third class mail usage for nonprofits exercising their rights of public policy advocacy. We helped kill the Lobbying Disclosure Act which would have required disclosure of all members and donors' names.

FSC also has an active Litigation Committee working on court cases contesting onerous regulation. We have a lobbyist in Pennsylvania seeking to change that state's law. There is a need to do much, much more.

If these issues are important to you, become involved by joining the FSC. Most nonprofits are members because they realize that the FSC's ability to lobby, litigate and educate Congress and states across the nation is far less expensive than the alternative -- conforming to new regulations and laws which push up costs and strap nonprofits.

FSC was formed in May of 1993 to lobby, litigate and educate on behalf of nonprofits. Here are some of the benefits of membership:

Up-to-the-minute Legislative Alerts through our fax network which tells you what's happening in Congress, and what members can do to help.

Reports on FSC's litigation efforts contesting unfair and unjust laws.

An FSC lobbying staff in Washington (and in Harrisburg, PA), working on legislation affecting nonprofits.

A free, one-year subscription to one of two journals: Philanthropy Monthly or NonProfit Times to all full members (see application).

Attendance to our annual Free Speech Leadership Conference at the Freedom Forum.

Attendance at other seminars highlighting major legislative and technical issues on the laws and regulations affecting nonprofits.

FREE SPEECH, The Free Speech Coalition Newsletter.

Thank you in advance for participating in our efforts to create a strong Free Speech Coalition.