Ari Armtrong’s Disclosures Unjustly Compelled by the FTC

This document was created on December 12, 2009. Updated August 12, 2010; September 14, 2010; September 20, 2010; November 7, 2010; and various subsequent dates. In September, 2014, the page was relocated to its current location.

As I explain in a related article, “Abolish the FTC: New Blogging Rules,” the Federal Trade Commission imposed new rules pertaining to bloggers (and others) on December 1, 2009.

As I summarize there, “The FTC has no legitimate authority to issue such rules, which defy the First Amendment and constitute censorship and the chilling of free speech. The rules are extremely broad, ranging from free review copies of books to Twitter posts. The rules are arbitrary and ambiguous, such that their precise requirements and penalties cannot be determined in advance. The rules thus open the door to political abuses. The rules are discriminatory in that they subject bloggers to different standards than print journalists.”

Even though it is inherently impossible to confidently comply with the FTC’s ambiguous rules, this document represents my best attempt to comply. I wish to stress that I believe the FTC’s rules are illegitimate and a violation of rights, and that the FTC should be abolished and its rules rescinded.

On occasion I speak well of the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) and Center. In December, 2009, the Ayn Rand Center gave me a promotional copy of the book edited by Elan Journo,Winning the Unwinnable War (which I’ll probably review at some point). I am especially a fan of ARI’s “books for teachers” program, which I have financially supported.

I am also a fan of The Objective Standard (TOS), the journal edited by Craig Biddle. TOS’s web page has featured advertisements for my book, Values of Harry Potter. These ads were published at no cost to me as a way to promote advertisements on the site. Biddle also offered editorial advice on my book, and I have written an essay for financial compensation for TOS titled “Lest We Be Doomed to Repeat It: A Survey of Amity Shlaes’s History of the Great Depression.” I have also written other articles for the publication for pay. Starting in October of 2011, I began to regularly write articles for the TOS blog as well as for the print journal, again for pay.

Diana Hsieh, whose work I also promote, also offered me feedback on early drafts of my book, and she has promoted its sale. Dr. Paul Hsieh runs the health policy page, Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, and I eagerly endorse his work. He has provided editorial feedback on some of my work. The Hsiehs once paid for a Front Range Objectivismdinner for my wife and me.

In July and August of 2010, Diana Hsieh assisted with a pledge campaign to raise funds from private donors for my work with Liberty In the Books, a project of Liberty On the Rocks, an organization run by Amanda Teresi. Hsieh received a small cut of the pledges for his assistance.

From July through September of 2010, Diana Hsieh also raised funds from private donors for our rewrite of our paper on the so-called “personhood” ballot measure in Colorado. She and I agreed to split the proceeds after other expenses.

Often I promote events and publications of the Independence Institute, the fabulous free-market think-tank in Golden. Back in 2005, I wrote a paper for the Institute for financial compensation titled, Wasteful Spending by Colorado Government. In 2009, 2010, 2012, and at least one previous year, the Independence Institute gave me and my wife free tickets to its annual banquet, I believe in appreciation for the uncompensated articles I occasionally write for the Institute. You can watch my great video interviews of the 2009 banquet.

Dave Kopel of the Institute has given me a handful of books over the years. In December 2009 he gave me a review copy of his Merril Press book, Aiming for Liberty: The Past, Present, and future of Freedom and Self-Defense. In August of 2011 Jon Caldara, President of the Institute, picked up part of my tab at and impromptu dinner meeting.

In February of 2012, the Independence Institute tentatively agreed to pay me $50 per article for ten articles over the course of the year. (Apparently I should have instead arranged to write about water issues for some alternate organization.)

For brief periods years ago, I worked on a contract basis for the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition as well as for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. Generally I think that both of those organizations continue to do good work, and I may endorse them and anything they might happen to sell or distribute. Years ago I also worked on a contract basis for the Libertarian Party of Colorado to produce its newsletter, but I have since repudiated libertarianism and the party.

Encounter Books sent me a review copy of David Gratzer’s essay, Why Obama’s Government Takeover of Health Care Will Be a Disaster. This retails for $5.99. I haven’t yet read that essay, but I’ve read other work by Gratzer, and generally I find him to be an informed and informative writer on health policy.

My wife works The Creative Alliance (TCA). In the event that the FTC deems its rules to apply to spousal financial ties, I thought I’d mention them here. For instance, if I ever note something like, “Gee, those flowers look pretty,” the reader should note that my wife works on flower catalogs for Syngenta, which grows and sells a great many flowers. The owners of TCA are also owned Nissis restaurant until 2010, for which my wife and I have received free gift certificates and tickets. Starting in 2010 the restaurant paid rent to the people who also employ my wife. Nissis has fantastic sound for concerts, and I enjoy sitting at a table during concerts with the ability to order food and drinks. Nice venue.

In 2009 the Sam Adams Alliance awarded me $10,000 as the recipient of the Modern Day Sam Adams Award. While I had entered the organization’s contest, this award was a surprise to me, and I suppose it makes any future award from the organization unlikely. Obviously the financial aspect of the award was well publicized. I think the group does good work regarding ballot information and recognition of free-market activists.

In 2011 the International Policy Network named me a finalist in its Hoiles prize for regional journalism. The organization agreed to pay for my plane ticket to New York for the awards banquet, plus a “small honorarium.”

Amazon sells my book, Values of Harry Potter. For a time I was also an Amazon “Associate,” for which Amazon paid me a pittance for links to products Amazon sells.

Adam Schrager, a reporter for 9News, helped get media coverage for my book, Values of Harry Potter, on that station. Vincent Carroll helped get media coverage for my book in the Rocky Mountain News, and Carroll now works for the Denver Post, where he writes an excellent column that I strongly endorse. Joel Warner helped get media coverage for my book at Westword. Various other television stations and newspapers in Colorado have covered events that I’ve organized. Boulder Weekly used to pay me to write a column.

Years ago I benefitted from free seminars hosted by the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), Property and Environment Research Center, Ludwig von Mises Institute, and the Center for Study of Public Choice. I also worked for a summer as a Koch Fellow in 1995, and this program is now operated by IHS. On at least two occasions the Cato Institute has given me free beer. I have been financially compensated for participating in seminars hosted by Liberty Fund, which sells a great many books that I heartily endorse. I’m pretty sure that all of the organizations mentioned in this paragraph have at some point given me either books or essays at no charge.

FreedomWorks payed for a plane ticket for me to Washington, D.C. from September 9-12, 2010, as well as for my hotel accommodations. While in D.C., I attended a bloggers’ conference and a 9/12 Tea Party event, both sponsored by FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks also bought me two meals, gave me several books, and gave me $10 worth of Metro fare (to travel to a FreedomWorks event). Before accepting the gift, I emphasized that FreedomWorks would have absolutely no influence over the contents of my writing, and a representative of the organization confirmed that the organization has no expectation that I write about any particular subject or express any particular view as a consequence of accepting the gift.

FreedomWorks also hosted a bloggers’ conference in Denver in November, 2011. I attended the event at no cost to myself, and FreedomWorks provided me with two meals, coffee and tea, and a couple of booklets.

FreedomWorks also agreed to pay my air fare, hotel expenses, and conference fees for the 2012 conference sponsored by the Association of Private Enterprise Education. I prepared a presentation for that conference on the topic of Hayek, Adam Smith, and the Tea Party.

My wife and I received complimentary tickets for the Great American Beer Fest of 2010, put on by the Brewer’s Association. We also got discounted tickets for 2011. This illustrates particularly nicely the actual causal flow of money: we like beer, therefore we got tickets. It’s not like the tickets are what turned us into beer drinkers or fans of the Brewer’s Association.

In 2010 Students for Liberty gave Liberty On the Rocks free copies of The Economics of Freedom, a collection of writings by Bastiat, and I got one of these copies for use with Liberty In the Books.

In 2010, Mike PcPheters sent me a complimentary copy of his book, Cartels and Combinations. In February of 2011, Jason Lewis’s publicist sent me a complimentary digital copy of Lewis’s book, Power Divided is Power Checked.

In October 2011, I got two complimentary DVDs, Indoctrinate U and The Libel Tourist, at the Free Minds Film Fest; the videos were made available by the Moving Pictures Institute. At the same festival, some party (I’m not sure who) provided free Chipotle chips and salsa, and I believe the organizers of the fest provided free popcorn.

In April, 2012, the Heritage Foundation paid my way to a two-day conference in Colorado Springs sponsored by Heritage. The organization paid for three meals, one hotel night, and various books.

In June, 2012, Americans for Prosperity paid for (most of) my expenses to attend Right Online, including airfare, two nights hotel stay (at the Venetian, which is pretty nice), and three meals (if you count the “continental breakfast” as a meal; I bought a salad from a vender). AFP also gave me a flash drive. At that event, the Franklin Center gave me some sort of USB doodad.

During a June, 2012 rally, the Colorado Americans for Prosperity handed out free sandwiches, and I had a couple.

During 2011 John Andrews gave me DVDs from that year’s Western Conservative Summit.

In July, 2012, I helped raise $1,170 for Liberty In the Books (a project of Liberty On the Rocks) to fund my work with the group through August of 2012.

On August 11, 2012, the Independence Institute gave me a barbecue lunch, a can of Coors Banquet beer, a bottled water, and a box of shotgun shells as part of of the organization’s Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms party. I send the II photographs and video of the event.

In August, 2012, the Ayn Rand Institute gave me an early and final version of the book Free Market Revolution. Also, McGraw-Hill send a review copy of the book, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure, to The Objective Standard, and I acquired it. (I reviewed both books.)

On October 4, 2012, I spoke at an event hosted by the AFGE 3607 Union, which provided me with lunch from Illegal Pete’s.

In November, 2012, Max Borders sent me a complimentary digital copy of his book for review, “Superwealth.”

In December, 2012, Michael Huemer sent me a review copy of his book, The Problem of Political Authority.

In February, 2013, Lin Zinser facilitated a ticket for me to the Leadership Program of the Rockies annual retreat in Colorado Springs. (I have no idea where she got the ticket.)

In February, 2013, the publisher Palgrave Macmillan sent me a review copy of the book, Freedom and School Choice in American Education.

In March, 2013, the Independence Institute invited my wife and me to its annual banquet, without charge.)

Starting in June, 2013, the Independence Institute agreed to pay me on a per-word basis to write exclusives occasionally for Complete Colorado.

In October, 2013, Diana Hsieh sent me a review pdf of her new book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame.

As of October, 2013, I have received several complimentary copies of the journal Critical Review (and I very much hope I receive many more). Update: As of October, 2015, I no longer receive the printed issues of the journal; instead, I have received digital versions of two issues (and hope to receive these indefinitely).

In March, 2014, my wife and I received complimentary passes to the Independence Institute’s Founder’s Night banquet. (See my video of the event.)

In September, 2014, Alex Epstein sent me a review copy of his book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

In April, 2015, the Independence Institute gave me a plaque for its Vern Bickel award, along with entry to its annual banquet and two coffee mugs. Also, Jon Caldara, president of the II, gave me a nice writing pen.

In April, 2015, I got complimentary entry into a class taught by Alon Stivi on workplace safety in Grand Junction.

In September, 2015, I received complimentary digital copies of two books: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, by Alex Epstein (from Epstein’s organization); and Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System, by Tara Smith (from the Ayn Rand Institute).

In February, 2016, St. Martin’s Press sent me a complimentary digital preview copy of Equal is Unfair by Don Watkins and Yaron Brook.

In April, 2016, Laura Carno sent me a complimentary digital review copy of her book, Government Ruins Nearly Everything.

In May, 2016, Carl Barney sent me a complimentary hardback copy of Equal Is Unfair via the Ayn Rand Institute.

In June, 2016, the Ayn Rand Institute send me a complimentary paperback copy of Defending Free Speech, edited by Steve Simpson.

* * *

As should be obvious, the creation of this document, as well as the continuous need to attempt to comply with the FTC’s ambiguous rules, is a complete waste of my time. I resent the FTC for forcing me to direct my valuable time away from essential projects to note distant, minor, irrelevant, or already-publicized financial connections to things I may on occasion speak well of.

I don’t need the FTC to tell me when and how to note financial connections. Moreover, the FTC’s presumption that my views are influenced by financial connections is ludicrous and insulting; the fact is that my financial connections are either unrelated to my views or a distant by-product of my views.

I also resent the FTC for forcing me to comply with ambiguous rules that may give my political opponents opportunities to lodge bogus complaints against me over alleged technical violations of the FTC’s rules, threatening to waste yet more of my time.

I do not expect that the FTC’s rules will be ambitiously enforced in the short-term. Many bad laws (and authorized rules) have no noticeable impact when they are first implemented. Often such laws and rules remain on the books for years before bureaucrats and prosecutors take advantage of them to actively violate people’s rights. That does not make their existence more comforting.

Again I wish to stress that the FTC’s rules are in blatant violation of the First Amendment, they constitute censorship, and for this the FTC richly deserves to be abolished.

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