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

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.

This site 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, 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 Truth Before Dishonor

12 Comments

  1. Pingback: I disagree with what they are doing, but at least they are going about it in the right way « Truth Before Dishonor

  2. I love how right-leaning fellows abandon their notions of tradition & conventional, easy-to-parse language when it suits them. “Speech” involves, generally, people speaking, or written representations of things people said. If a liberal said “giving money to somebody counts as speech,” the right-wing blogs would explode with outrage: “can’t these liberals read a dictionary?” they’d say. “Speech is, you know, speaking! Maybe writing. Not spending money!” However, since Republican-appointed judges have told them otherwise, they’re happy to throw in with stretching the word to mean whatever they’re told it ought to mean.

  3. This is not a serious attempt to introduce an amendment. This is an attempt to stack the deck in favor of the liberal agenda. On it’s face, this amendment is unconstitutional and not even debatable. Lobbyist of all sizes and shapes are not the problem with our country’s legislative branch of government. A senator or congressman need only learn how to say “NO” to bribes, payoffs, & the likes, whether you call it a campaign contribution or simply accept it under the table.

    One legislative under taking that might help clean up elections would be to establish shorter time windows for the campaigning seasons.

    The biggest problem with our country is the people in leadership positions and the people of the United States that keeps sending them back to Washington.

    I am addressing many of our nation’s problems at http://www.blov8.com and looking for all the help that I can get…

  4. I have no sympathy at all for the government trying to regulate people’s opinions or expression,

    Translation: I like the American political system being bought and sold by corporations.

    The text of your “Amendment” is just plain fo0lishness.

  5. I have no sympathy at all for the government trying to regulate people’s opinions or expression,

    Oh, and Dana, they’re not trying to regulate people’s opinions or expreassions.

    They’re trying to stop corporations, which aren’t people, from buying politicians.

  6. cbmc wrote:

    I love how right-leaning fellows abandon their notions of tradition & conventional, easy-to-parse language when it suits them. “Speech” involves, generally, people speaking, or written representations of things people said. If a liberal said “giving money to somebody counts as speech,” the right-wing blogs would explode with outrage: “can’t these liberals read a dictionary?” they’d say. “Speech is, you know, speaking! Maybe writing. Not spending money!” However, since Republican-appointed judges have told them otherwise, they’re happy to throw in with stretching the word to mean whatever they’re told it ought to mean.

    OK, so you wish to define speech as solely speaking, and the press as written representations of the spoken word. If that is how you wish to look at it, then I’d point out that while a picture may be worth a thousand words, a picture is actually no words at all . . . and therefore could be banned. I guess that you’ll have to give up your porn habit.

    However, the point you are trying to take falls apart in that, at least in the McCain-Feingold formulation, the law was attempting to prevent not direct monetary contributions to candidates, but people actually publishing, on their own, expressions of their support for, or opposition to, a political candidate. It was just such an independent publication, of a documentary heavily critical of Hillary Clinton, that was the crux of the Citizens United decision.

  7. The Phoenician wrote:

    I have no sympathy at all for the government trying to regulate people’s opinions or expression,

    Translation: I like the American political system being bought and sold by corporations.

    No, the correct translation would be that the proposed cure is far worse than the disease.

    The text of your “Amendment” is just plain fo0lishness.

    Yes, actually, it is, and it was meant to be. However, it is an amalgamation of all of the things our friends on the left would like to regulate about people’s speech. Sections 1 and 6 are simply the legal language required. Section 2 addresses “hate speech,” which really is banned in many Western democracies, Sections 3 and 4 erect that wished-for total wall of separation of church and state, while Section 5 takes the position so many of y’all do on corporations.

    Put ‘em all together, and it sure looks silly, doesn’t it? :)

  8. Yes, actually, it is, and it was meant to be. However, it is an amalgamation of all of the things our friends on the left would like to regulate about people’s speech.

    Says… who? You?

    Gee, why is this not convincing, Dana? I would attempt to construct a caricature of what w1ngnuts are pressing for, but I’m not sure it’s possible any more.

  9. The Phoenician wrote:

    Yes, actually, it is, and it was meant to be. However, it is an amalgamation of all of the things our friends on the left would like to regulate about people’s speech.

    Says… who? You?

    Gee, why is this not convincing, Dana? I would attempt to construct a caricature of what w1ngnuts are pressing for, but I’m not sure it’s possible any more.

    With which point do you disagree, Phoe? Do you deny that “hate speech” is criminalized in some Western democracies? Some forms are criminalized in your own country.

    New Zealand prohibits hate speech under the Human Rights Act 1993. Section 61 (Racial Disharmony) makes it unlawful to publish or distribute “threatening, abusive, or insulting…matter or words likely to excite hostility against or bring into contempt any group of persons…on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national or ethnic origins of that group of persons.” Section 131 (Inciting Racial Disharmony) lists offences for which “racial disharmony” creates liability.

    Do you deny that you, yourself, on this very site, have told us that corporations are not living persons and thus their speech can, and should, be regulated?

    Do you deny that there are organizations which advocate strict separation of church and state, and that many Americans believe that there can be absolutely no relationship between the state and religion at all?

    Your problem is that I told the truth, and you just can’t handle the truth.

  10. If a liberal said “giving money to somebody counts as speech,” the right-wing blogs would explode with outrage

    Really? Liberals and libertarians long ago said things like “Burning a flag is free expression,” and that nasty SCOTUS (not to mention many Republicans) agreed with that assessment. Certainly if setting ablaze a national symbol so qualifies, then how can not donating money to a political candidate?

    Personally, I’ve little problem with such an amendment and NO problem with how to do it (constitutional amendment).

  11. With which point do you disagree, Phoe

    Well, you mean apart from the teeny tiny little fact that the NZ law covers different activities than your Section 2 (“publish or distribute” vs “speech”)? Try Sections 1, 3, and 4.

    It’s a deceitful weaselly strawman from start to finish, and you know it.

  12. Dana,

    I read your posting over on John’s site as well.

    Could you point out language in this proposed amendment in reference to legal corporations or artificial persons and as being the target of this amendment?

    It certainly seems to be the assumption of many, e.g., “They’re trying to stop corporations, which aren’t people, from buying politicians.”, that that is the purpose.

    Apparently then, my browser is just not reproducing the word “corporation” when it appears in the Scribd view.

    This leaves the proposed amendment to the Constitution looking as though it is nothing more than a raw and unqualified grant of power to the Federal and State governments to limit spending and much more vaguely, “in kind” contributions, from any natural person as well, howsoever these bodies may see fit.

    I’ve even copied the text and used the search function in MS Word to scan for the terms, “natural person”, “corporation” “artificial person”, and even “person”, and find no hits regarding any qualifications on the proposed grant of power.

    So, what is up?

    You can respond on John’s site if you prefer.

    DNW

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