WASHINGTON, July 13, 2014 – Forty-five Democrat Senators have unbelievably signed on as co-sponsors to Sen. Mark Udall’s proposed amendment to the Constitution that would severely limit the free speech protections of the first amendment.
If enacted, this would be the very first time that the Constitution has ever been amended to restrict or limit, rather than expand upon, Constitutionally protected freedoms.
Additionally, its inception would be the first time that the Bill of Rights would have been amended in the history of our country. Sen. Ted Cruz and the ACLU, strange bedfellows indeed, are both correct in their full throated criticisms of the proposed amendment.
Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the proposed amendment to the Bill of Rights that the ACLU, which is far from a conservative group, has justly claimed “would directly eviscerate the freedoms of speech, assembly and petition.”
The amendment would allow Congress to “prohibit such entities (corporations and natural persons) from spending money to influence elections.”
This is designed to counteract the Citizens United Supreme Court decision which ultimately ruled that corporations do have constitutionally protected rights, including the right to the freedom of speech as expressed through expenditures on federal and state elections.
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The ACLU is again correct when they assert that a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision would “break the Constitution.
The amendment differentiates between Congress’ ability to “reasonably regulate” the political speech of individuals and the ability of Congress to directly “prohibit” political speech by corporations (and labor unions and non-profit organizations).
The American people would, therefore, have to rely upon our trust in our elected officials and the federal judiciary to determine what speech is reasonable and legal and what is not. This concept is completely contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment. The First Amendment is only necessary to protect unreasonable speech!
It wasn’t that long ago when Congress thought it reasonable to criminalize the criticism of America’s foreign policy during wartime by instituting the Alien and Sedition Acts, which provided for criminal penalties for expressing ideas contrary to what the Democrats in power at that time considered to be reasonable.
Those acts were instituted by the second most radical president of all time, and the man who most all progressives cherish, Woodrow Wilson in 1918.
Additionally, with the way that some federal courts (see the Ninth Circuit and the DC Circuit Court) decide cases, the American people should be extremely wary of taking comfort in knowing that Congress or the federal courts will decide what speech is reasonable and what speech is not.
The Democrats laughed off concern from Sen. Ted Cruz about whether this amendment would provide Congress with the authority to ban books and movies. However, Cruz, in his most recent Op-Ed on this topic pointed out the Obama administration’s totalitarian position it advocated for during the oral arguments at the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, which directly justified his concerns.
“When Anthony Kennedy asked the Department of Justice if the Obama administration was truly arguing that, according to the Constitution, book sales could be prohibited, the (Obama) Justice official replied, yes, “if the book contained the functional equivalent of express advocacy.”
Also justifying Cruz’s concerns is that the Citizens United case was brought because the Federal Election Commission wanted to ban a movie that the group Citizens United made that was critical of Hillary Clinton from being shown prior to the 2008 Democrat primary election.
The ACLU also pointed out in their letter that the amendment would give Congress the power to prohibit Simon and Schuster from publishing Hillary Clinton’s newest book, Hard Choices if she ran for office, and would give Congress the power to specifically criminalize the exact letter the ACLU wrote because it identified all 46 Democrat sponsors by name and party.
The Democrats used two arguments to defend their position that this amendment is necessary. Both are red herrings. The first is that money is not speech. This is obviously and patently false. Money is, and has always been speech: printing pamphlets, making a website, buying a yard sign for your yard or a sticker for your car, publishing books and making political movies all cost money, and these things have and always will be some of the most important forms of political speech.
The second red herring the Democrats put forth in support of this amendment is that corporations are not people. The astounding thing about this argument is that no one has said that they are. The Citizens United decision held that corporations (and non-profit groups, labor unions and citizen groups) have constitutional rights, as they always have. As Cruz pointed out in the Senate Judiciary Committee during the first debate over this amendment on June 18, 2014, if corporations do not have constitutional rights, if Republicans dominated Washington, Congress could pass a law prohibiting the New York Times (which is a corporation) from criticizing Republicans.
Now, under the First Amendment today, this law would be overwhelmingly unconstitutional. Why? Because corporations have free speech rights.
These arguments are laughable at best. Democrats want to shut down dissent by amending the Constitution so that future Democrat controlled congresses could grant a huge advantage to incumbents and the Democrat party. It is, and has always been about power with the Democrats.
In 1997, when the Democrats in Congress were debating a similar measure to repeal the free speech protections of the first amendment, Sen. Ted Kennedy stood up to his party and said, “In the entire history of the Constitution, we have never amended the Bill of Rights and now is no time to start.” That same year, Democrat Senator Russ Feingold also stood up to his party.
He said, “Mr. President, the Constitution of this country was not a rough draft. We must stop treating it as such. The First Amendment is the bedrock of the Bill of Rights.”
46 of the 53 Democrats in the Senate have sponsored this amendment. Not one of them has spoken out against it. The good thing is that the Democrats are beginning to let their mask slip; beginning with FDR’s plan to pack the Supreme Court in the 1930s, up to the rebranding of the Constitution as a “living document” in the 1960s, it has been very apparent that the Democrats have always loathed the constraints the Constitution places on eternal growth of the federal government.
As Obama’s popularity wanes, and the Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate continue to diminish, they are desperate to further take away as many individual rights as possible, while centralizing as much power in the federal government as possible.
The litmus test for whether a country is truly free has always been whether or not citizens are free to criticize the government. In almost every society in history criticism of the government has been criminalized and if the Democrats get their way, that will be the case in America as well.
The Democrats should take into consideration the words of Alfred Whitney Griswold which he wrote in the New York Times in 1959, “Books won’t stay banned. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is good ideas.”