Newspaper column: Democratic lawmakers trying to ration free speech

Nevada’s Democratic lawmakers in Carson City are seeking to enforce their egalitarian philosophy on everyone: All people are equal and deserve equal rights — and only equal amounts of those rights. You have the right to free speech, but no more than anyone else.

This past week an Assembly committee heard testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 4, which would urge Congress to amend the Constitution to strike the free speech portion of the First Amendment. SJR4, sponsored by Las Vegas Democratic state Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, would erase the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that it was unconstitutional to forbid the broadcast of a movie critical of then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just because it was paid for by a corporation.

But SJR4 goes even further. It limits spending by individuals as well. The summary reads: “Urges Congress to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution to allow the reasonable regulation of political contributions and expenditures by corporations, unions and individuals to protect the integrity of elections and the equal right of all Americans to effective representation.”

It basically declares democracy is dead because the citizens are too stupid to hear vigorous and boisterous debate and make rational decisions.

The resolution argues that large political donations corrupt candidates and dilute the power of individuals. Pay no heed to the fact that in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was outspent by Hillary Clinton by two-to-one — $600 million to $1.2 billion.

The resolution would not only overturn Citizens United but also McCutcheon v. FEC.

Democrats think all money belongs to the state except what the state allows you to keep, and now they demand to take control of how you spend that.

In addressing an Assembly committee on her bill Cannizzaro said it “addresses a growing and rather troubling influence of large donations by corporations and other organizations in our sacred policymaking process as a result of significant and uncontrolled political contributions.”

Jeff Clements, president of American Promise, an organization pressing for such a constitutional amendment, testified to the Assembly committee by phone.

He said we need to get back our constitutional foundation that “really has gone back in a non-partisan and cross-partisan way for over a century. It is not to say there is anything bad about corporations and unions or the very, very wealthy … If we allow unlimited deployment of the financial resources from those and other sources, it overwhelms the rights we have as Americans and the duties we have to participate in our self-governing republic, as equal citizens with equal representation.”

He argued that politics is not a marketplace to be bought and sold.

Yes, it is a marketplace — one of ideas. But no matter how much someone spends trying to persuade us to buy, we don’t have to buy.

As for it being a non-partisan issue as Clements claimed, the vote on SJR4 in the state Senate was on a party-line vote of 12 Democrats for and nine Republicans against.

Let’s hear what the court had to say about free speech in McCutcheon: “The Government has a strong interest, no less critical to our democratic system, in combatting corruption and its appearance. We have, however, held that this interest must be limited to a specific kind of corruption — quid pro quo corruption — in order to ensure that the Government’s efforts do not have the effect of restricting the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them.”

In Citizens United, the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “The (First) Amendment is written in terms of ‘speech,’ not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals — and the dissent offers no evidence about the original meaning of the text to support any such exclusion. We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is ‘speech’ covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise. A documentary film critical of a potential Presidential candidate is core political speech, and its nature as such does not change simply because it was funded by a corporation. Nor does the character of that funding produce any reduction whatever in the ‘inherent worth of the speech’ and ‘its capacity for informing the public,’ … Indeed, to exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy.”

I’ll put those words up against the Democrats’ bleating about money corrupting.

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.



Hillary still trying to gag opposition to her candidacy

I don’t know about yours, but my vote is not for sale, despite what Hillary Clinton says.

Today she revealed her plans to combat “secret” or “dark” money being spent on politics.

Clinton and Obama during debate. (AP photo)

She specifically wants to overturn by hook or by crook the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which held that that organization had the right to air a movie called “Hillary: The Movie.”

The FEC blocked airing the movie because of provisions of the McCain-Feingold Law that required disclosure of the group’s donors and a disclaimer at the end of each ad.

Clinton’s website proclaimed that the “Citizens United case helped unleash hundreds of millions of dollars of secret, unaccountable money into U.S. elections that is drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans and distorting our democracy. ”

But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 5-4 ruling in Citizens United, spelled out that censorship was unconstitutional on its face:

“The law before us is an outright ban, backed by criminal sanctions. Section 441b makes it a felony for all corporations — including nonprofit advocacy corporations — either to expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates or to broadcast electioneering communications within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election. Thus, the following acts would all be felonies under §441b: The Sierra Club runs an ad, within the crucial phase of 60 days before the general election, that exhorts the public to disapprove of a Congressman who favors logging in national forests; the National Rifle Association publishes a book urging the public to vote for the challenger because the incumbent U. S. Senator supports a handgun ban; and the American Civil Liberties Union creates a Web site telling the public to vote for a Presidential candidate in light of that candidate’s defense of free speech. These prohibitions are classic examples of censorship.”

But Clinton declared she will appoint justices who would overturn this ruling and/or amend the “Constitution to allow Americans to establish common sense rules to protect against the undue influence of billionaires and special interests and to restore the role of average voters in elections.”

Common sense? Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” advocating the Revolution was printed anonymously. Hillary would have banned it. Also the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers were printed under pseudonyms. Hillary would have banned them.

She also wants to establish matching funds for small donations. Though she never says where the match will come from, presumably it would come from tax money, which would mean you might be paying to support a stance with which you disagree. Clearly a First Amendment violation.

Hillary Clinton apparently assumes American voters are just too stupid to be exposed to points of view with which she disagrees and those voices should be gagged. If she is correct, this experiment with a democratic republic is a failure.

Hillary actually released a video explaining how she opposed a movie that specifically attacked her:

Citizens United reportedly is at work on “Hillary: The Sequel.”

Free speech is meant to give all citizens access to every viewpoint available. Just because a union or a corporation is an assemblage of people pooling their resources to make their message more loudly and frequently heard does not make that message automatically inferior and unworthy of dissemination. The citizens, the voters are perfectly capable of rejecting a bogus argument no matter how much money is spent on it.

If you can’t win the debate, gag your opponent.

Hillary attacks court ruling that was specifically about her

This is who Hillary Clinton is — a hypocritical censor.

On the campaign trail she has restated she is all for amending the Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United.

Hillary Clinton

“I would consider supporting an amendment among these lines that would prevent the abuse of our political system by excessive amounts of money if there is no other way to deal with the Citizen’s United decision,” she is quoted as saying.

There are any number of stories recounting this, but few bother to recap what Citizens United was about. Yes, the ruling states the First Amendment protects the rights of corporations, unions and non-profits to spend money on political free speech.

The Citizens United case overturned the McCain-Feingold law that prohibited electioneering within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election. The law blocked Citizens United from airing a film called “Hillary: The Movie,” which called Hillary Clinton a manipulative liar.

Now she wants to obviate a court ruling that specifically said groups had a right to criticize her. That’s rich.

In 2012 Harry Reid and others tried to pass something called the DISCLOSE Act that would have blunted Citizens United. They blatantly misquoted and quoted out of context the Founders in order to push their censorship scheme.


Newspaper column: Forcing group to reveal donors flies in the face of American tradition and philosophy

A Carson City judge this past week ordered a Virginia-based conservative group to pay a fine of $109,560, plus interest, plus attorney fees for violating a Nevada law that requires any group that engages in “express advocacy” in elections to register with the Secretary of State and report donors and expenditures, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Lawyer’s for the group — Alliance for America’s Future (AAF), which spent $189,223.50 airing a 30-second television commercial 320 times praising Brian Sandoval’s conservatism during the gubernatorial campaign of 2010 — had argued that the law is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

AAF ad calling Sandoval a conservative (screen grab)

AAF ad calling Sandoval a conservative (screen grab)

They told the judge the group had only one Nevada donor.

The commercial clearly carried a disclaimer saying: “Paid for by Alliance for America’s Future.” It concludes with a still photo of Sandoval and the words: “Brian Sandoval. No tax increases. No government waste. Just Conservative.” It never expressly calls for viewers to vote for Sandoval.

The Judge James Wilson wrote of AAF’s protest of the size of the penalty, “No amount of civil penalties can redress the injury to Nevada voters caused by refusal to timely provide them with the information to which they are entitled, thus there is no adequate remedy at law.”

The adequate remedy is that voters can decide for themselves the merits of a communication and whether to discount it if donors remain anonymous. They don’t need the state forcibly outing contributors. The Founders often wrote anonymously or under pseudonyms because they did not want the message to be dismissed as self-serving.

Though various appellate courts and even the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC have upheld laws such as Nevada’s as constitutional, it is clearly an abridgment of free speech to force people to surrender their right to anonymously express their views about elections, candidates and issues with donations to like-minded groups.

Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent in Citizens United spoke directly to the topic of forcing people to reveal their identities as a prerequisite to speaking out about issues and candidates, saying such laws have spawned a cottage industry that uses forcibly disclosed donor information to intimidate, retaliate, threaten and boycott individuals and businesses with whom they disagree.

Thomas wrote: “The disclosure, disclaimer, and reporting requirements in (the law) are also unconstitutional. … Congress may not abridge the ‘right to anonymous speech’ based on the ‘simple interest in providing voters with additional relevant information …’”

An email to AAF asking whether the group would appeal has not garnered a reply.

Free speech is a right, not a privilege that requires prior government permission.

Read the entire column at Ely or Elko sites.