Newspaper column: Democrats doubly wrong in effort to gag free speech

Supreme Court justices listen to President Obama rebuke them in 2010 State of the Union speech for Citizens United decision a week earlier. (AP pix)

Democrats keep pounding on a solution in search of a problem.

In January of 2010 the Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to prohibit political campaign spending by corporations and unions. In the case of Citizens United v. FEC the court struck down a law under which the Federal Election Commission barred the airing of a movie produced by Citizens United that was critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Within the week, in his first State of the Union address to Congress, President Obama lambasted the justices to their faces, saying the court had reversed a century of law. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities,” he said. “They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.”

During her losing campaign against Donald Trump, Clinton said she would consider supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision to “prevent the abuse of our political system by excessive amounts of money …” even though she outspent Trump by two-to-one, $1.2 billion to $600 million.

In 2014 every Democrat present on the floor of the Senate voted to pass a constitutional amendment that would have empowered Congress and the states to pass laws abridging the freedom of political speech.

Nevada’s long-serving Democratic Sen. Harry Reid argued in favor of that amendment, saying “the flood of special interest money into our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced.”

His successor, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, has taken up the cudgel, also calling for a constitutional amendment. “The U.S. Constitution puts democratic power in the hands of the American people — not corporations or private companies,” she said. “Since the Citizens United decision, big corporations have gained unprecedented influence over elections and our country’s political process. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation; it’s critical that we end unlimited corporate contributions if we are going to have a democratic process and government that will truly work for all Americans.”

Newly elected Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen stated shortly after her election, “Washington hasn’t been listening to the concerns of Southern Nevada because unlimited dark money flooding our elections is drowning out the voices of real people in our community.”

Both Democratic Reps. Ruben Kihuen and Dina Titus have expressed support for a group called “End Citizens United.”

The Democrats in the Nevada Legislature also waded in with a resolution urging Congress to overturn Citizens united. It passed without a single Republican vote.

First, the Democrats are wrong on principle. The fact that an expenditure is coming from a group instead of an individual does not negate the First Amendment guarantee of the freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely, because it also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.

An assembly is not just a crowd of people on the street, it is also an organization, a corporation or a union.

Second, their premise that excessive spending overwhelms and subverts the system is demonstrably wrong.

Not only does the spending gap between Clinton and Trump demonstrate the fallacy, but just this past week an obscure special election for a House seat in Georgia underscored the error of their rationale.

In that race Democrat Jon Ossoff outspent his Republican opponent Karen Handel by seven-to-one and still lost by 4 points.

And talk about special interest money. Democrat Ossoff, between March 29 and May 31, reported receiving 7,218 donations from California, but only 808 donations from Georgia. Overall, he got $456,296.03 from Californians, compared to $228,474.44 from Georgians.

Even when all the third party money is accounted for, spending in support of Ossoff amounted to $30 million, compared to $21 million for Handel.

The Democrats are not only losing elections, but are losing the argument about the effectiveness of the influence of outside money. Being able to spend your own money on political speech is a fundamental aspect of free speech, but the ability to buy repeated messages does nothing to increase the persuasiveness of those messages.

The fundamental principle of democracy is that voters can listen to the free and unencumbered debate and discern what is best for themselves and the generations to come. To deny that is to deny and denigrate the foundation of this nation.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

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7 comments on “Newspaper column: Democrats doubly wrong in effort to gag free speech

  1. Maureen Karas says:

    And what of Union money and their boots-on-the-ground?  Citizens United I believe does not apply to unions – does it?  How convenient.

  2. Vernon Clayson says:

    Here’s an idea, if politicians don’t like or want contributions from special interests, i.e., corporations or private companies they should refuse to accept them and only take contributions from private citizens in the area of the office they seek. Anyone think Hillary Clinton would have dug up over a billion dollars from private citizens, or spent their own money to campaign as Trump did??

  3. The Democracy for All resolutions include this language:

    “SECTION 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.”

    Might they exclude unions from the “other artificial entities”? Possibly.

  4. Steve says:

    These incessant “Heller vote no” commercials may prove to be another example of the message over money effect displayed in Georgia.

    Overload is drowning the message they want to spread.

  5. deleted says:

    Corporations are not people and never have been. Corporations were never intended to have the same or similar rights recognized under the Constitution that people have. Corporations have no recognized rights to free speech in the Constitution and this means it is not unconstitutional for the Congress, or any state for that matter to restrict whatever it is that corporations SPEND to buy influence.

    The founding fathers are tossed around here often with much reverence but oddly enough, even though there is an ample historical record that demonstrates their beliefs about this issue, rarely do you hear those words mentioned in support of the fiction that the Constitution was ever intended to protect “the rights” of corporations.

    To the contrary, the founding father most often quoted, had this to say about corporations and their attempts to gain power and influence over the politics in this country:

    “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

    Until 5 Supreme Court Justices decided to the contrary a few short (terrible) years ago, no one doubted, and surely no Supreme Court doubted, that Congress had the authority to limit SPENDING MONEY, by state created entities, legal fictions, in elections.

    And Thomas while I do respect the principle you maintain here, to keep pointing to the money spent on elections that is transparent, without noting that far money is spent that is not transparent, is disingenuous. Do you honestly believe that the groups spending the money do it because they don’t think their money is buying influence and victories?

    It was Rincon here that put me onto the book “Dark Money” and while it’s probably not to your taste, it is eye opening. They have no right to our “constitutional republic” and were never intended to have rights at all but if this continues, they will have all, and the people will have nothing.

  6. The Federalist Papers were written psuedonymously.

  7. deleted says:

    My neighbor has 3 rabbits.

    (Credit here to “Jerry Maquire”)

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