On the eve of the inauguration, many industries and businesses await the changes a new administration will bring. In particular, payday lenders are hoping that they will once again be able to enjoy unrestricted banking access, as for the past several years their banking relationships have slowly been severed as a result of a government initiative known as “Operation Choke Point.”
Operation Choke Point began—without any Congressional approval or even knowledge—as a product of President Obama’s 2009 executive order to eliminate fraudulent and illegal businesses. Not surprisingly, however, the initiative quickly expanded. By 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had started quietly launching the now-infamous federal initiative unconstitutionally cutting off countless legitimate businesses from banking services. Continue reading
On November 10, 2016, a California federal judge dismissed a putative class-action lawsuit designed to force the Classifications and Rating Administration (CARA) to give an “R” rating to any film containing tobacco use. Alleging that around 200,000 young people would start smoking every year after seeing tobacco use in G, PG, and PG-13 rated movies, the plaintiff in Forsyth v. Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. sued the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) (CARA is operated as a division of the association), the National Association of Theater Owners, and various major movie studios. Because injunctive relief alone isn’t enough in most class actions, the complaint also sought $20 million in damages. Continue reading
When prohibiting or reducing “harmful” economic conduct proves either politically unpalatable or otherwise unachievable, governmental regulators often target speech about the conduct as a convenient alternative. Rather than ban the sale of tobacco or sugary drinks, for instance, federal, state, and local governments have imposed restrictions on advertising and other promotional speech. Unable to generate support for a second Prohibition, temperance proponents have attempted to chill alcohol consumption through speech limits, such as proscribing disclosure of alcohol-by-volume percentage on beer labels and even censoring ads for happy hours. In 2016, the so-called sharing economy became the government’s latest target regulating conduct by proxy. Thankfully, online short-term rental platforms like Airbnb are fighting back with First Amendment challenges. Continue reading
Today, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold a long-awaited public meeting to consider how off-label information about medicines can be shared with physicians. Washington Legal Foundation staff attorney Greg Herbers will testify at the meeting, which FDA has entitled “Communications Regarding Unapproved Uses of Approved Medical Products.”
Since WLF’s landmark victories in the Washington Legal Foundation cases, courts have consistently upheld the First Amendment right to communicate truthful and non-misleading information about the off-label uses of medical products. For instance, in US v. Caronia, WLF represented an industry employee convicted of discussing a drug’s off-label benefits and won a reversal from the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on First Amendment grounds. WLF filed an amicus brief in a second case, Amarin Pharma v. FDA, in which a US federal district court followed the rationale of Caronia. Those decisions presumably played a major part in FDA’s decision to reevaluate its approach to off-label communication.
The text of WLF’s testimony is available here. WLF will also submit written comments to FDA in December.
In the dog days of summer 2016, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) ordered local government authorities to ban advertising for a select group of “disfavored” food and beverage products. The agency’s brazen action establishes a deeply troubling precedent in government’s efforts to usurp our freedom to choose what we eat and drink. Over the last several years, Washington Legal Foundation has closely tracked and strategically opposed actions such as USDA’s ban through our “Eating Away Our Freedoms” project. We launched that project five years ago this month on October 20, 2011.
The EatingAwayOurFreedoms.org website is organized by the four major tactics that activists use to denigrate certain foods and beverages and to stigmatize consumers’ choice of those products: regulation, litigation, taxation, and public-relations demonization. For several years, the “regulation” page contained far fewer references to news articles and other analyses than the other three. But as government’s appetite for food-related mandates and restrictions has grown, the number of “regulation” entries has ballooned. USDA’s ad ban is perhaps the most pernicious regulation EatingAwayOurFreedoms.org has ever encountered. Continue reading