Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.
Harry Reid — in full-throated anti-Koch brother rant — this week told the world he knows better than the Founders just how much free speech the citizens of this country should be allowed. He announced he is backing an amendment to the Constitution that would tear the heart out of the First Amendment.
Reid promised the Senate would vote soon on an amendment put forth by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
The amendment would allow Congress and the states to set limits on contributions to candidates and limits on how much of one’s own money could be spent in support of or opposition to a candidate.
It also expressly states: “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.”
Problem solved. The Koch brothers buy a press — or a television network or a string of radio stations or a website.
These days anyone with a computer owns a “press.” The size of the audience can vary wildly, of course.
That fundamental press freedom flaw aside, Reid’s whole argument that there must be equality imposed on speech by limiting the corrupting power of money is bogus. The rich may try to buy votes with their advertising buys, but any such transaction takes a willing seller.
In his prepared text Reid declares:
“The Supreme Court has equated money with speech, so the more money you have the more speech you get, and the more influence in our democracy. That is wrong. Every American should have the same ability to influence our political system. One American, one vote. That’s what the Constitution guarantees. The Constitution does not give corporations a vote. And the Constitution does not give dollar bills a vote. From what I’ve heard recently, my Republican colleagues seem to have a different view. Republicans seem to think that billionaires, corporations and special interests should be allowed to drown out the voices of Americans. That is wrong and it has to end.”
Might we remind the senator from Nevada that his vote in the Senate carries the same weight as those of the senators from California and New York and other states where far more “Americans” reside. So the Constitution does not guarantee one American, one vote.
Nor does the Constitution dictate equal outcomes for all people.
Have the voices of Americans been drowned out as Reid states?
In addition to being a senseless and futile gesture, such an amendment would require a huge bureaucracy to enforce, but, of course, this bureaucracy would be even handed like the IRS and efficient like the VA and responsive like the BLM.
Reid called campaign spending by concerned citizens “one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced.” Concluding in table thumping terms:
“It is unacceptable, that the recent Supreme Court decisions have taken power away from the American voter, instead giving it to a select few. Soon, Chairman Leahy and the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Senator Udall and Bennet’s constitutional amendment. The Senate will vote on this legislation after it is reported out of the Committee. I urge my colleagues to support this constitutional amendment – to rally behind our democracy. I understand what we Senate Democrats are proposing is no small thing – amending our Constitution is not something we take lightly. But the flood of special interest money into our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced. Let’s keep our elections from becoming speculative ventures for the wealthy and put a stop to the hostile takeover of our democratic system by a couple of billionaire oil barons. It is time that we revive our constituents’ faith in the electoral system, and let them know that their voices are being heard.”
No, the greatest threat is a massive Leviathan of a federal government that sweeps aside freedoms for self-serving reasons and spends our grandchildren into eternal, crushing debt.
The Koch brothers can spend every dime of their billions arguing for conservative policies, but it would be for naught if there is none willing to agree.
Corporations can spend millions selling New Coke and Edsels, but there have to be willing buyers.
Freedom of speech needs no ground leveling. The power to persuade is not the exclusive domain of the loudest, otherwise every debate victor would be the one with the biggest bullhorn.
If this democratic Republic is not a farce, the voters will, eventually, figure out the best route to a more prosperous future.