Every Senate Democrat Supports a Restriction to Your Speech
Article from Reason by Jacob Sullum.
Every Democrat in the Senate is backing a constitutional amendment that aims to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 decision in which the Supreme Court lifted legal restrictions on what corporations and unions are allowed to say about politics at election time. That would be troubling enough, since Citizens United, which involved a film that was banned from TV because it was too critical of Hillary Clinton, simply recognized that Americans do not lose their First Amendment rights when they organize themselves in a disfavored way. But the so-called Democracy for All Amendment goes much further than nullifying one Supreme Court decision. It would radically rewrite the constitutional treatment of political speech, allowing Congress and state legislatures to impose any restrictions on election-related spending they consider reasonable.
“To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process,” Section 1 says, “Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” By allowing restrictions on money spent by anyone to influence elections, that provision would nullify a principle set forth in the landmark 1976 case Buckley v. Valeo.
In Buckley, the Supreme Court upheld the Federal Election Campaign Act’s limits on campaign contributions, which it said were justified by the desire to prevent “corruption and the appearance of corruption.” But the Court overturned FECA’s limits on spending by candidates and on independent spending by individuals and groups. Those limits, the Court said, “place substantial and direct restrictions on the ability of candidates, citizens, and associations to engage in protected political expression, restrictions that the First Amendment cannot tolerate.”
The rationale for that conclusion is not, as critics often claim, that “money is speech.” The point, rather, is that people must spend money to communicate with large numbers of their fellow citizens. Limits on spending therefore restrict their ability to exercise their First Amendment rights. If the government banned computers and smartphones, that would clearly violate the First Amendment—not because computers and smartphones are speech but because they are necessary to participate in online debate.
Read the entire article at Reason.
Comments are closed.