Senators Reid and Udall put Free Speech on the chopping block

Senators Reid and Udall put Free Speech on the chopping block

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WASHINGTON, July 14, 2014 — The Democrats are intent on making a political point to a portion of their political base, and will launch a frontal attack at one of our most foundational constitutionally enumerated rights in order to do so. This is nothing particularly new, and such offenses are not exclusive to just that political party, but the brazen and depraved approach they are employing seems to set new standards.

Democrats have had a burr in their saddle regarding the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision for over 4 years now. This was the decision from the Roberts’ Court that affirmed (essentially) the constitutionality of labor unions and corporations to spend unlimited sums, directed towards advertising and internet campaigns to influence elections.

They also have a publicly expressed animus towards the poster boys of GOP Super PACs – the Koch brothers. Harry Reid and his compatriots feel that Super PACs are the swamp monster that thwarts their ambitions to recreate nationally what they have accomplished in California, Illinois, New York, Maryland Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and elsewhere, which is a one party state. Since they haven’t had any success in the courts in molding campaign rules in their image, a new strategy with all the dexterousness of a bull in a China closet, has been unveiled.

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week, on July 10th approved on a 10-8 party line vote, a proposed amendment – S. J. RES. 19, sponsored by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), that describes as:

…intended to reverse recent Supreme Court rulings that have deregulated the campaign finance system, such as Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC. It states that both Congress and the states would “have power to regulate the raising and spending of money” on elections. Specifically, it would allow limits on outside spending in support of candidates, which the Court has struck down.

The author of the amendment, Sen. Chris Coons, Delaware Democrat, says “We can’t fail to act. I want to restore the previous balance.” Whatever “previous balance” Coons is referring to is uncertain, but the effect and future ramifications of such an amendment is equally unpredictable. Coons admitted his plan was “arguably extreme” but said the court decisions have forced Congress to this point.

No one, including the 42 Democratic Senate co-sponsors, know what sort of avalanche this amendment could precipitate further down the road. But that they would countenance a corrosion of free speech that is directly related to other facets of speech we cherish as Americans, is puzzling on its’ face. Certainly any political advantage is illusory, as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) admits. “The Soroses and the Steyers will be just as banned as the Kochs and the others.” What’s more, labor unions are still free to spend like inheritors of a billionaire’s estate. Is this a solution in search of a problem?

Of the amendment’s two meager chances for success, one of them, ‘Slim’, has left the building. As of yet, not even all Democrats have signed on and there’s virtually no possibility of any Republican support, so the proposal is effectively dead. And in the House, it is DOA. To look further to such an amendment passing in 38 states, is to view LaLa Land through a telescope.

But, if it isn’t to level the playing field and isn’t legislatively viable, what then could be the end game? Aside from the eternal chafing that the political class of both parties experiences when it comes to the boundaries set by the Constitution, it may be with the Democrats on this, are on a renewed crusade to stimulate the flagging enthusiasm of the core of their party base – the activist left. The left, all the way out to the margins of the Democrat party, are very disillusioned about the lack of opposition in Congress towards NSA intrusions, extra-judicial drone strikes and Wall Street casino gaming. Harry Reid senses that taking a stab at Citizens United might get some of that election season adrenaline flowing again.

Critics of both parties – whether from the left or the right, have a legitimate grievance about the status quo. Politicians in D.C., are not nearly as focused in on repairing the damage to our civil liberties that have been effected by recent Imperial Presidencies and runaway federal agencies – as they are in waging partisan food fights over which of their parties has the advantage of squeezing the most bovine ‘mother’s milk’ from their contribution heifers. In defense of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs.FEC, Chief Justice Roberts noted:

“Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects. If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades — despite the profound offense such spectacles cause — it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”

We do have the Federal Election Campaign Act, which requires the full reporting of campaign contributions and expenditures, so people can be informed as to who is spending and how much. And in fact, the Democrats are looking at the wrong end of the problem. Large campaign expenditures are mainly a scourge because voters for the most part are lazy and apathetic – which is not going to be solved by altering the 1st Amendment.

It is hard to argue that one party states are healthy for the ideally pluralistic process of Democracy, no matter who controls them, but hacking at the Constitution is the least favorable and most risky solution to pursue. And it’s a suit that is ill fitting on the likes of Harry Reid, who should be thankful that the 1st Amendment allows him the latitude to utter contemptuous statements as frequently as he does.

After all, the Las Vegas Review-Journal just called Senator Reid out for his mockery of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in the bitter comment about the Hobby Lobby decision. “The one thing we are going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men.” The Review-Journal correctly observed that:

The moment any scandal, policy failure or political defeat crashes down on him — and there have been plenty the past few years — the Senate majority leader unleashes outrageous rhetoric that’s better suited for a sandbox than what once passed for the world’s greatest deliberative body. Worse, the Nevada Democrat has become especially fond of slinging race cards just to crank up the outrage.

The 1st Amendment allows everyone to express their opinion without fear of government censorship, including the utterances of scoundrels. Mr. Reid, would be well advised to put down his whittling knife and leave the Constitution as it is.





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