Democrats demanding deletion of ‘free speech’ clause from First Amendment

first

You’ll get your free speech when Nevada Democratic lawmakers say you can — if ever.

On Tuesday 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, specifically 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.

The summary of SJR4 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 may as well read: “Democracy is dead because the citizens of the United States are too stupid to hear vigorous debate and make rational decisions.”

The resolution argues that large political donations corrupts candidates and dilutes 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.

This proposal goes even further than most arguments against Citizens United — basically that corporations and unions are not people and have no free speech rights — and proposes to allow regulation and limitations on any and all political contributions and expenditures, including those by individuals, by also overturning the Supreme Court ruling in 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.

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 say there is anything bad 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 of ideas. But no matter how much someone spends trying to persuade us to buy, we don’t have to buy it.

As for it being a non-partisan issue as Clements claimed, the vote on SJR4 in the state Senate this past week was on a party-line vote of 12-9. All Democrats in favor. All Republicans opposed.

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. For the reasons set forth, we conclude that the aggregate limits on contributions do not further the only governmental interest this Court accepted as legitimate in Buckley. They instead intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise “the most fundamental First Amendment activities.”

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. We should celebrate rather than condemn the addition of this speech to the public debate.

I’ll put that up against the Democrats’ bleating about money corrupting the political process.

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Newspaper column: Why we have a federalism system, not a democracy

Someone buy these folks a civics textbook and maybe a Cliff Notes version of the Federalist Papers.

Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, but she lost the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227. That is because the Electoral College is made up of 538 members — one for each senator and representative from each state, plus the District of Columbia. (Look at it another way. Clinton won California by 4 million votes, but Trump won the combined popular vote in the 49 other states.)

This has prompted a number of people to call, again, for the abolishment of the Electoral College, which gives smaller states like Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas and the like a disproportionate say in the presidential election, just as James Madison and the other Founders intended. They were looking for a compromise between the unitary government of England, in which all decisions flowed from the central government, and the Articles of Confederation that dispersed nearly all decisions to the states, weakening interstate commerce and a strong national defense posture.

They settled on a federalist system that granted enumerated powers to the people and the sovereign state governments, as well as the federal government.

Alexander Hamilton put it this way in Federalist Paper No. 68: “It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place. Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption.”

Despite this precaution, the electors were in fact subject to a flood of phone calls, emails and social media diatribes.

Joining this cacophony of voices wailing and moaning about the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College was Nevada’s own senior Sen. Harry Reid, who is retiring in less than a month after three decades representing tiny Nevada in the U.S. Senate and more than a decade as Senate Democratic leader.

Perhaps, someone should remind Sen. Reid that the Senate itself was created to provide all states with an equal number of representatives in the upper chamber — very undemocratic, indeed, just like the Electoral College. Both were created precisely to be undemocratic and protect the rights of the minorities and smaller states.

In Federalist Paper No. 62 either Hamilton or Madison, not sure which, stated, “The equality of representation in the Senate is another point, which, being evidently the result of compromise between the opposite pretensions of the large and the small States, does not call for much discussion. If indeed it be right, that among a people thoroughly incorporated into one nation, every district ought to have a PROPORTIONAL share in the government, and that among independent and sovereign States, bound together by a simple league, the parties, however unequal in size, ought to have an EQUAL share in the common councils …”

Federalism, not democracy.

 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.

So much for railing against the evils of political free speech

Dark money is evil. Bright money is bad. Money is the root of all political evil. Gag the Koch brothers. Overturn Citizens United. If you buy enough advertising to tell a lie and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. People are that gullible and democracy will never work fairly without restraints on spending on free speech.

This we know because Harry and his ilk tell us so. Over and over and over, ad nauseam.

The medium might be the message, but, just perhaps, the message is more powerful than the money.

According an editorial in the Saturday-Sunday Las Vegas newspaper, President-elect Donald Trump spent $600 million on his successful presidential campaign, including a paltry $66 million of his own filthy lucre, while Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign shelled out a record $1.2 billion — nearly twice as much as Trump.

On top of that, the editorial tells us, according to the Center for Competitive Politics, the total number of ads bought by Clinton and her supporters outnumbered the number of pro-Trump ads by 3-to-1. Also, outside groups raised and spent more than three times as much to push Clinton than they did for Trump.

“Democrats love to complain about political spending,” the editorial concludes. “But they’ve shown time and again that they’re willing to shell out as much as it takes to guarantee victory. Trouble is, money is no guarantee of anything.” Despite what they keeping telling us.

Voters have to be convinced, not just browbeat. People should be free to put their money where their mouths are and voters will be free to evaluate the message and decide.

 

Electoral College was intended to avoid ‘tumult and disorder,’ but some are stoking it

The 538 members of the Electoral College — one for each senator and representative from each state, plus the District of Columbia — are to convene on Dec. 19 to cast their ballots for the presidency.

Meanwhile, there are reports from across the country that those voters are being harassed and threatened with physical harm or death if they cast their votes for Donald Trump.

This does seem to belie one of the primary reasons the Founders chose to have the president selected by the Electoral College instead of by state legislatures or popular vote.

Alexander Hamilton put it this way in Federalist Paper No. 68:

It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption.

It is interesting to read how the would-be disrupters cite a different passage from this same document to argue that electors should disavow the voters of their states:

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.

In their judgment Trump’s talents lie in low intrigue and arts of popularity. They may the right, but that’s not how the system works. For electors to abandon their duty would be tantamount to coup.

A Vox writer says Trump “the first unquestioned demagogue to become a major-party nominee in our country’s history. On his quest to the general election, he stoked prejudices and passions to flout fundamental constitutional norms, such as our freedoms of the press, religion, and peaceful assembly.”

He then points out that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote now by over 2 million votes, which is irrelevant.

Now, who is stoking prejudices?

The online petition site Change.org has a petition that reads in part:

On December 19, the Electors of the Electoral College will cast their ballots. If they all vote the way their states voted, Donald Trump will win. However, in 14 of the states in Trump’s column, they can vote for Hillary Clinton without any legal penalty if they choose.

We are calling on the 149 Electors in those states to ignore their states’ votes and cast their ballots for Secretary Clinton. Why?

Mr. Trump is unfit to serve. His scapegoating of so many Americans, and his impulsivity, bullying, lying, admitted history of sexual assault, and utter lack of experience make him a danger to the Republic.

Secretary Clinton WON THE POPULAR VOTE and should be President.

Hillary won the popular vote. The only reason Trump “won” is because of the Electoral College.

But the Electoral College can actually give the White House to either candidate. So why not use this most undemocratic of our institutions to ensure a democratic result?

Use an undemocratic institution to impose a democratic result? Talk about twisted logic. If the shoe were were on the other foot, they’d be screaming bloody murder. These people are all about getting their way and the means be damned.

Besides, the U.S. is a republic, not a mobocracy.

 

Newspaper column: In Nevada election the tail wags the dog

Welcome to the state of Clark.

The land mass that is Clark County was added to Nevada three years after statehood, carved from a corner of Arizona. It was a part of Lincoln County until 1909, when the Legislature split off Clark County.

Clark dangles on the map like a vestigial tail on the nether region of Nevada.

On Election Day 2016, the tail wagged the dog.

This past week 1.1 million Nevadans cast presidential ballots, fully 68 percent of those were cast in Clark County — and there was a stark difference in how Clark voted compared to the rest of the state.

Only in Clark County did a majority vote for the Democratic Senate candidate. Thus it was for much of the ballot.

In the presidential contest alone the difference was a spectrum shift from bright Democratic blue in Clark to crimson Republican red just about everywhere else in the state.

While Democrat Hillary Clinton beat out Republican nominee Donald Trump statewide by about 36,000 votes, she bested him in Clark by more than 80,000 ballots, while he out polled her in the rest of the state by 55,000 votes, according to Secretary of State tabulations.

The only other Nevada county Clinton won was urban Washoe and that by only 2,500 votes out of more than 190,000 cast there. In other counties Trump won largely by margins exceeding 2-to-1 and in Lincoln County by 6-to-1.

Meanwhile, in the senatorial race to fill the vacancy being left by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s retirement, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto won statewide, but the only county she won was Clark. She won statewide by about 2 percentage points or 26,000 votes, but won by 80,000 votes in Clark. Republican Joe Heck, who gave up his Congressional District 3 seat to run for the Senate, won every other county, some by more than 4-to-1. Excluding Clark, Heck won the remainder of Nevada by more than 55,000 votes.

Nearly 4 percent of Nevadans chose “none of these candidates” in the Senate race.

In the 4th Congressional District — which includes part of northern Clark County, the southern part of Lyon County and all of White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties — Democrat Ruben Kihuen won districtwide by nearly 10,000 votes but won in Clark by about 24,000.

Incumbent Republican Cresent Hardy won every other county, all by about 2-to-1 or more.

After the dust settles, Nevada switches from having four out of its six Washington delegates being Republicans to four being Democrats.

Democrats won all save one of the Clark County state Senate seats up for grabs, giving the Democrats an 11-10 majority in Carson City, instead of the previous 11-10 GOP edge.

Republicans won every rural Assembly seat, while Democrats carried most races in Clark and Washoe, giving Democrats a 27-15 majority, instead of the previous Republican majority.

The gun grabbing Question 1 ballot initiative requiring background checks for almost every gun purchase or gift passed by 100,000 votes in Clark, but failed in every other county, often with 80 to 90 percent voting no.

Question 2, legalization of pot, passed only in Clark, Washoe, Nye and Story, but narrowly won statewide due to Clark’s numbers.

In 2014 Nevada experienced a red shift, when Republicans won all six statewide elective offices — governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, controller, attorney general — as well as majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

The 2016 reversal of fortune was probably best explained by a little-circulated Associated Press story that appeared about a week before the election. It described how the Las Vegas Culinary union was busing thousands of casino housekeepers and staffers to early voting sites just off the Las Vegas Strip, “speaking in Spanish as they clutched pocket-sized brochures listing candidates endorsed by the powerful Culinary union.”

The union bused workers during their paid lunch break and handed them boxed lunches for the ride back to work.

The story went on to report that the union had registered 34,000 members to vote, had reassigned 150 members to full-time political work, planned to knock on 200,000 doors and place phone calls to co-workers.

There is talk in California since the election of Trump about secession from the Union. Anyone think Clark County should go with them?

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.

Reid plays the role of partisan hack even as he exits stage left, far left

Just the facts ma’am, just the facts, as Joe Friday used to say.

Harry accuses

Harry accuses

But in the case of FBI Director James Comey and revelations about Hillary Clinton’s playing fast and loose with her emails during her time as secretary of State, it is a matter of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Comey did and Harry Reid damned.

In a letter to the FBI director, Reid accused Comey of violating the Hatch Act, which bars officials from interfering with elections, by rushing to reveal “the slightest innuendo related to Secretary Clinton … in the most negative light possible.”

Of course, image what others would say upon discovering Comey had come into possession of information that obviated his previous claims that Clinton was not prosecutable due to a lack of intent — though law has a “gross negligence” standard. There would have been screams of a coverup. Not revealing facts is just as influential on an election as revealing facts, or more so.

The damnation of Watergate was over the coverup.

“Moreover, in tarring Secretary Clinton with thin innuendo, you overruled longstanding tradition and the explicit guidance of your own Department,” Reid berated. “You rushed to take this step eleven days before a presidential election, despite the fact that for all you know, the information you possess could be entirely duplicative of the information you already examined which exonerated Secretary Clinton.”

And then again it might not be.

“Director Comey is updating his previous testimony, and he should do that,” U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said in an interview with the WSJ on Sunday. “Hillary Clinton can only blame herself for this mess. She created this problem, not Director Comey.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., called Reid in a Twitter posting a disgrace. “Harry Reid is a disgrace to American politics, among worst men ever in Senate. He can’t go soon enough, & many Democrats privately agree.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said of Reid, “Thank god he’s leaving is my initial reaction,” adding that “anyone capable of sending that press release has to be under the influence of something.”

Here is the entire Reid letter:

Dear Director Comey:

Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another. I am writing to inform you that my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law.

The double standard established by your actions is clear.

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

By contrast, as soon as you came into possession of the slightest innuendo related to Secretary Clinton, you rushed to publicize it in the most negative light possible.

Moreover, in tarring Secretary Clinton with thin innuendo, you overruled longstanding tradition and the explicit guidance of your own Department. You rushed to take this step eleven days before a presidential election, despite the fact that for all you know, the information you possess could be entirely duplicative of the information you already examined which exonerated Secretary Clinton.

As you know, a memo authored by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on March 10, 2016, makes clear that all Justice Department employees, including you, are subject to the Hatch Act. The memo defines the political activity prohibited under the Hatch Act as “activity directed towards the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”

The clear double-standard established by your actions strongly suggests that your highly selective approach to publicizing information, along with your timing, was intended for the success or failure of a partisan candidate or political group.

Please keep in mind that I have been a supporter of yours in the past. When Republicans filibustered your nomination and delayed your confirmation longer than any previous nominee to your position, I led the fight to get you confirmed because I believed you to be a principled public servant.

With the deepest regret, I now see that I was wrong.

Sincerely,

Senator Harry Reid

What Comey said previously:

 

Who will win tonight’s presidential debate?

You know the old shibboleth about those who listened to the Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960 thought Nixon won, but those who watched on TV thought Kennedy won — something about Nixon’s 5 o’clock shadow and sweating brow.

If anyone only listens to tonight’s Clinton-Trump debate, there might be a similar dichotomy. The listener won’t be subjected to Trump’s smirks and wild hand gestures or be exposed to Clinton drooping like a wilted flower.

Let’s just hope debate moderator Lester Holt doesn’t pull a Candy Crowley and start incorrectly correcting either candidate.

I suspect the debate will be scored by viewers and pundits alike on style and performance rather than substance, mores the pity. Neither of them has articulated anything close to a coherent list of policies for how they would behave as chief executive and commander in chief.

Clinton has a memory like a steel sieve and Trump can contradict himself in a single sentence.

Unlike reality TV, this really is unscripted.

Doubtless tonight’s outcome will come down to who makes the biggest blunder. Like Gerald Ford insisting that Poland, Yugoslavia, and Romania were all “independent and autonomous” of the Soviet Union. Like Michael Dukakis’ leaden, stone-faced and rote opposition to the death penalty when asked if he would relent if his own wife were raped and murdered. Like Al Gore’s exasperated sighs. Like Obama’s smirks in the first debate with Mitt Romney.

I doubt we’ll be offered any debate zingers like Ronald Reagan asking, “Ask yourself, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?”

Or like Lloyd Bentsen saying to Dan Quayle, “I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Expect the primacy/recency effect to be heavily skewed to the primacy side of the equation. The debate will be won or lost in the opening minutes by whichever candidate lands the best and most blows. That’s when watchers will mark their mental score cards. By the final minutes, they and we will be too exhausted to pay attention or care.

But there is a distinct possibility with this match that both might end up on the canvas.

 

Joe Heller cartoon

Joe Heller cartoon