Truth Before Dishonor

I would rather be right than popular

I disagree with what they are doing, but at least they are going about it in the right way

Posted by Dana Pico on 2011/11/02


From Think Progress:

Senators Introduce Constitutional Amendment To Overturn Citizens United

By Zaid Jilani on Nov 2, 2011 at 9:50 am

One of the overarching themes of the 99 Percent Movement is that our democracy is too corrupted by corporate special interests. This corruption was worsened last year by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed for huge new unregulated flows of corporate political spending.

Yesterday, six Democratic senators — Tom Udall (NM), Michael Bennett (CO), Tom Harkin (IA), Dick Durbin (IL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Jeff Merkeley (OR) — introduced a constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn the Citizens United case and restore the ability of Congress to properly regulate the campaign finance system.

The amendment as filed resolves that both Congress and individual states shall have the power to regulate both the amount of contributions made directly to candidates for elected office and “the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.”

I have no sympathy at all for the government trying to regulate people’s opinions or expression, but at least the six Democratic senators have understood the proper method of doing so.

The text of the proposed amendment:

SECTION 1. Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on—
(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and
(2) the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.
SECTION 2. A State shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to State elections, including through setting limits on—
(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, State office; and
(2) the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.
SECTION 3. Congress shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

I have suggested before that if our friends on the left are dissatisfied with the scope of the First Amendment, they ought to press for a constitutional amendment to repeal or revise it.

Amendment XXVIII

  • Section 1: The First Amendment to this Constitution is hereby repealed.
  • Section 2: Freedom of speech, publication and broadcasting is guaranteed, save that speech which incites hatred, animosity or violence based on race, ethnicity, non-Christian religion, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identification may be prohibited.
  • Section 3: The free exercise of religion is guaranteed, save that no individual expression of religious faith may be professed in public. No religious belief which would discriminate against any person based on race, ethnicity, non-Christian religion, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identification is protected by this amendment, or may be protected by any statute of any level of government.
  • Section 4: Neither the United States nor any political subdivision therein may recognize, promote or protect any form of religious institution, belief or opinion. The Congress and the states shall have the power to enforce this provision through appropriate legislation.
  • Section 5: (a) The freedom of speech applies solely to individuals. No company, corporation or other organization, save those which exist as representatives of working people, or certified journalistic sources may claim the right to unrestricted speech under the provisions of Section 2, nor may any organization other than a registered campaign organization or political party, engage in any speech or spend any money in support of or opposition to any political candidate.
    (b) No individual member of any organization, save those which exist as representatives of working people, or certified journalistic sources, may claim individual status to circumvent the provisions of Section 5 (a) unless certified by the Federal Election Commission.
  • Section 6: The Congress may enact any legislation required to enforce the provisions of this Amendment.

Now, the Censorious Six did not go quite as far as what I proposed, but it is clear from what they proposed that they would give the Congress the right to regulate speech. Consider proposed Section 1:

Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on—
(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and
(2) the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.

My site, Common Sense Political Thought, really isn’t expensive, but it isn’t free, either. I pay my site hosting service, Blue Host, $107.40 a year for hosting my sites¹, and $10.00 per year for each sponsored url. Considering that my Monthly Bandwidth Transfer is unlimited, that’s not bad at all! Further, though my advertising is meager, I have actually realized a small² profit on this site; this site could be defined as a for-profit enterprise.

But, were the Censorious Six’s proposed amendment actually passed, the Congress would have the power to declare that my paltry expenses nevertheless constitute the “spending of money (or) in kind equivalents” and limit or even forbid “expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.”

That is, in fact, what the McCain-Feingold Restriction on Speech Act attempted to do. McCain-Feingold banned the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general election. While such would not effect CSPT the way it was worded — I use the internet, though for many people their internet service is delivered by cable — and I am not incorporated, though the proposed amendment would not require that any future limits be restricted to corporations.

We have many problems in this country, but I can think of no problem that is so great, so overarching, that the proper solution is to limit the freedom of speech and of the press. If people don’t like what I have to say, they have every right to not read what I write; if people don’t like the political commercials on television, the thing comes equipped with a selector for changing the channel or even [horrors!] turning the damned thing off.

I rather doubt that the Censorious Six will get anywhere with this. Passage of a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds super-majority in each House of Congress, followed by the ratification by three-quarters of the states. I’m sure that the Democrats will express some support for this — the Democrats just love restrictions on people’s liberties! — but the Republicans won’t buy it in the least. But, at least the senators proposing the amendment have gone about it in the constitutional manner.
_________________________________
¹ – This includes all of the sites I sponsor: CSPT, a site our host hates (Bridging the Gap), a website for my church, and, as of last weekend, the Carbon County Republican Party’s website.
² – Normally a couple hundred dollars a year, though I have received two royalty payments totaling about $1,100, in year’s past.
_________________________________
Cross-posted on Common Sense Political Thought.

4 Responses to “I disagree with what they are doing, but at least they are going about it in the right way”

  1. [...] totaling about $1,100, in year’s past. ________________________________ Cross-posted on Truth Before Dishonor Filed under Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, It's for our own good!, Solutions from [...]

    Like

  2. scatback said

    The phrase, “corporate personhood,” sounds odd, but I know that it means allowing corporations to donate money to whomever they wish, which sounds 100 % supported by the First Amendment if you ask me.

    Like

  3. Dana Pico said

    Corporations were first defined as legal persons for the purposes of their treatment under the law. Since the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the rights of due process of law to persons, it is important that corporations are considered legal persons under the law. Without that, corporations could have their property seized or their revenues confiscated willy-nilly, on the say-so of whatever idiot legislator of judge decided.

    Like

  4. DNW said

    “SECTION 1. Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on—
    (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and
    (2) the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.
    SECTION 2. A State shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to State elections, including through setting limits on—
    (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, State office; and
    (2) the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.
    SECTION 3. Congress shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

    I note no particular relevance here to the Citizen’s United case, since the proposed grant of legislative power to place limitations on spending and in-kind contributions, makes to reference to this applying to legally fictional or artificial persons only.

    The proposed Constitutional Amendment simply grants to the state legislatures or Congress the power to set whatever limits they wish.

    The “in-kind” reference is also more than merely problematical, since despite whatever legal definitions may be found in Black’s or created by subsequent or accompanying statute, there is, based on historical evidence, bound to be serious wrangling over the meaning and distributive application of the term “in-kind”. I can foresee, the probability of a situation arising wherein the more ardent restrictionists would attempt to limit the amount of time volunteers might put into a campaign on the basis that they believe themselves to be operating under the promise of indirectly derived personal economic gain should their candidate be elected and a platform promising, say, lower taxes be made law.

    If that seems too outrageous consider that it has recently been reported that a Federal court has decided to allow a lawsuit to go forward wherein an unseated candidate was suing a pro-life advocacy group for loss of livelihood

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1210/45938.html

    and

    and

    http://www.lifenews.com/2011/11/02/pro-life-group-wins-skirmish-congressman-wants-it-shut-down/

    And since this is about money,

    http://www.followthemoney.org/database/uniquecandidate.phtml?uc=6530

    Like

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