FOR RELEASE: February 19, 2024

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute

Vienna, Va., February 19, 2024 – The Media Institute has announced the charter members of the Steering Committee for The Madison Project: Free Speech and Press in American Democracy.  This is the Institute’s major new initiative that will assess threats and challenges facing free speech and press in this pivotal election year, and what this could mean for the future of American democracy.

Chairing the Steering Committee is noted First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, long-time member of The Media Institute’s First Amendment Advisory Council.  He is senior counsel in the litigation practice group of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP in New York City.

Abrams was described by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as “the most significant First Amendment lawyer of our age.”

Other charter members of the Steering Committee are:

  • Patrick Butler, President and CEO of America’s Public Television Stations.  Butler had been senior vice president of The Washington Post Company for 18 years, and previously served in staff positions in the U.S. Senate and in the Reagan and Ford White Houses.
  • William H. Johnson, Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory and Legal Affairs at Verizon.  Prior to joining Verizon in 2004, Johnson had been a litigator in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta law firms.  He serves on The Media Institute’s Board of Trustees.
  • Kathleen A. Kirby, Partner at Wiley Rein LLP in Washington, D.C., where she is co-chair of the firm’s Telecom, Media, and Technology Practice.  She is a member of The Media Institute’s First Amendment Advisory Council.
  • Michael O’Rielly, Senior Fellow of  The Media Institute and former FCC commissioner.  He is the President of MPO Consulting Inc., based in Arlington, Va., and also serves on the Institute’s First Amendment Advisory Council.

The Steering Committee held its first meeting on Feb. 15.  The group will provide ongoing advice and guidance on the activities and direction of The Madison Project, which will continue throughout 2024 and into 2025.

“We look forward to drawing on the expertise of this distinguished group as The Madison Project pursues its goal of protecting free speech and press in the service of democracy and civic engagement,” said Institute President Richard T. Kaplar.  “The energy and ideas these experts bring will add greatly to The Madison Project’s success.”  Also adding his expertise to the Project is Media Institute Distinguished Senior Fellow Stuart N. Brotman.

The Madison Project is underwritten by foundations, corporations, and others with an interest in media and communications, the First Amendment, and the preservation of American democracy.  Support is provided in part by Verizon, LG Electronics, and Wiley Rein LLP.  For more information about underwriting opportunities, contact Richard T. Kaplar at

The Media Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation specializing in communications policy and the First Amendment.  Visit the Institute at

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